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Daybreak

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The polished cement flooring he was seated on was cold to the touch, seeping through his pants and chilling his skin. A metal handle was digging into his back from the cabinet that served as his back-rest. The operating room of the veterinary clinic was dark save for one warm lamp flicked on in the corner. A hand appeared in his vision, holding out an almost-empty bottle of something dark and strong, for him to take. Stiles took the bottle and fed the pulsing flames in his belly and smoke clouding his mind with a few more swallows. As he lowered his hand once more, the vet sat beside him on the floor huffed a humorless laugh. 

 

"You know . . . as an adult, I should feel pretty ashamed to be giving a seventeen-year-old alcohol. You're not even legally an adult, much less legal to drink." Despite his words, Deaton made no moves to take the bottle back—not after Stiles had spent the last hour helping him drain it. Stiles smiled, but it felt ugly and twisted on his lips, more a sneer than anything. 

 

"I think it's safe to say my future isn't exactly in danger from a few drinks." His voice was rough and scratched as it rumbled from his sore throat. Stiles' gaze dropped to his black dress pants and black button-down shirt—his matching black tie and jacket having long since been discarded in favor of rolled sleeves and an unbuttoned collar. Deaton's attire was just as morbidly telling of where they had spent their day. 

 

Kira.  

 

She wasn't someone that either of them had been particularly close to, and her funeral certainly hadn't been the hardest they had to attend, but she had been the last of them and that was something neither of them could swallow without help. God, everything was so fucked. It had all seemed just fine in the beginning—sure it was a nightmare and the danger had always felt very real at the time—but none of them had to bathe in the very grim reality that, in a split second their lives could end. That was it for them. 

 

No do-over's, no second chances, no player-respawn, nothing. 

 

They weren't nearly as durable or invincible as they liked to think. They had thought that as long as they tried hard enough, or wanted it badly enough, that they could do anything. But none of that was true. They were just incredibly lucky kids who somehow survived as long as they had when the world was throwing everything it could at them to take them down. They were like machines made of folded paper, thinking they were steel, only one harsh gale away from falling apart. 

 

And once they had lost one of their own, it just didn't seem to stop. The Alpha pack had claimed Erica and Boyd. The absence of the chatty blonde and stoic giant had nearly broken them. Because, when they were no longer growling masks of bravado and clenched teeth and dry insults, when they were still . . . when they were cold, unresponsive, and eyes closed as if they were asleep . . . everyone was reminded that these weren't just werewolves, they were two sixteen-year-old kids from broken or struggling homes that had just wanted to be a part of something. 

 

Then the Nogitsune had rolled in on purple storm clouds and pulled their already crumbling walls from the very foundations. It had turned their own fears and insecurities into weapons to hurt them. It had made them paranoid to listen to their own thoughts or trust their eyes and ears. In the end, it took Allison with it as well and that really did break them. They were already stumbling, but the loss of the tenacious and kind-hearted huntress had truly swept their feet out from under them and left them open and vulnerable on their backs for what came next. 

 

The Dead Pool.  

 

Compared to what they had faced before, it should not have affected them so much. However, they were too tired to think, too defeated to fight, and too lost to really unite. They were able to fend off the assassins' attempts the first few times, seeking reward no matter the cost. That is, until a virus swept through Beacon Hills that seemed rather fatal to the wolves. It didn't only affect them, Satomi lost a few wolves to the virus as well. Isaac was the only one from their pack to succumb to the illness, but that didn't matter much in the end. The virus left the wolves weak and the non-wolves—like Lydia—unprotected. The assassins gladly swept in and took advantage of their vulnerability. 

 

One by one they were picked off. 

 

Even the Sheriff, Stiles thought bitterly, remembering how his father hadn't been able to stand as kid after kid was killed in the town he was meant to protect. Eventually, the man wound up venturing out, half in a bottle, and going straight to where one of the assassins was residing to try to take them on and end things once and for all. . . Instead, his throat was slashed in a dirty motel parking lot and Stiles had to see the earth opened up next to his mother's grave with a gleaming new granite headstone to be her neighbor indefinitely. 

 

Somehow, Stiles found himself sleeping in the back office of the veterinary clinic instead of going home after that, eventually turning into him crashing at Deaton’s small apartment. He never wanted to know the true silence of being the only one to live there anymore. He never knew how long he could make his body go on without sleep until that first week after his dad passed. 

 

After that, it became a blur of freshly upturned dirt, sleep-deprived detectives questioning him on his connection to the recent victims, pitying gazes from the townspeople, and weeping family members. They had thought Kira, at least, would be safe with the protection of her mother. The Yukimura family had made arrangements to leave California right after the last funeral, but it apparently hadn't been quickly enough. 

 

And so, here Stiles and Deaton sat. . . In the dark clinic, sharing a bottle of Whiskey and occasionally sharing memories—hazy from time, faded in spots and far too saturated in color and joy to have been an accurate depiction of the past but still so much better than the silence. Stiles mainly talked about all the dumb shit he and Scott used to do when they were younger and hadn't felt the punishing hands of death. Deaton talked more than Stiles had ever heard him speak, about his time with the Hale Pack before the fire. 

 

It was strange because no one who had really known the pack while it was still alive and thriving had ever said more than a few vague details when they needed to. Derek had kept every little thread of information about his former pack close to his chest like it was the only thing keeping him alive—and maybe it was. Peter seemed to cope by pretending anything that had happened before him waking up in Beacon Hills Memorial just hadn't existed. 

 

And Deaton, Deaton had been so tight-lipped about literally everything pertaining to the supernatural world that Stiles had just sort of assumed that Deaton had always been that way and had been just as distant with the Hale Pack. With every story he shared on that cold hard floor, though, it seemed less and less like the truth. 

 

Deaton spoke of the Hales like they had been his family, more so than any person he shared blood with. He told Stiles that he had practically lived with the Hales with how much time he spent at the main house and how often he shared a meal with them. He spoke of days dripping in sunlight and the saccharine honey that seemed to permeate the air. In his tales, it never seemed to rain, every injury came with a new invaluable lesson, and every wolf was the hero of their own exciting story. From his words, he painted pack as something so much more than a couple of people hastily bound together in the mutual need to survive each day. 

 

It brought a new ache into Stiles' chest, one that dulled the sharpness of his grief, an ache to have memories of these days as well so he could reminisce on them and have known the people held so dear to Deaton's heart. 

 

It was almost surreal, the way Deaton had lost his entire pack, being one of the only to survive, and how Stiles now was in the exact same spot as him. Even the roles they had played in their packs were similar. Not that Stiles had been his pack's official emissary or anything, but that had more to do with their situation and circumstance. If it had been a normal pack and not a loose group of broken teenagers and even more broken adults, then there would have been a more solid structure to the pack instead of just 'Alpha' and 'the rest I guess.' 

 

Either way, now it was truly just him and Deaton. 

 

Deaton had fallen silent after telling Stiles about a woman from the old Hale pack that he had cared for and had wanted to pursue, if he had ever scrounged up the courage, that is. Stiles allowed the silence to hang in the air for a few minutes as Deaton slowly pulled himself out of bittersweet memories of a woman who might have become his mate if circumstances had been different. However, he knew not to let Deaton be alone with his own thoughts for too long, as he wouldn't wish the same on himself. 

 

"There . . ." Stiles swallowed and looked down at the bottle in his grasp as he slowly swirled the amber liquid inside. "There's really nothing left. For me. Everyone is . . . gone, and it feels like I haven't thought of tomorrow in years." His words rang in the air like a gunshot, he took another heavy drink. "I would trade every last breath I take to just have another shot—not even a guarantee, just a chance to make thinks right and bring back even one of them." 

 

Deaton remained silent as he spoke, and Stiles knew he was breaking an unspoken rule between them. They didn't voice their 'what if's because regret and obsessing over the past wouldn't bring them any closer to moving forward—which was the only way either of them would survive. Stiles knew that fantasizing about an impossibility such as that would only hurt him more in the end, but he really couldn't help it. He was drunk and tired and more vulnerable than he'd ever felt before and it was the perfect time for such thoughts to take advantage of him. 

 

Stiles waited for Deaton to inevitably bring him back to earth, to tell him that nothing good would come from thinking like that. Because, that was what he did for Stiles. Ever since things really turned to crap, Deaton had been the unmovable stone in the raging river. He had been Stiles' unexpected lifeline whenever he felt himself drifting away. Before, Stiles couldn't be in the same room as the man without wanting to throttle him, but. . . 

 

Alan Deaton was not the most warm and comforting person, but he knew almost exactly what Stiles was going through and he helped Stiles to fortify his walls when he felt like he was crumbling. It was a tough love, and it was the only reason he wasn't comatose in his own misery. 

 

"Is there really nothing tying you here? Nothing left to pull you forward?" The question caught Stiles off guard. He turned to look at the man beside him to see him scrutinizing him with startlingly sober eyes. His dark eyes were hard and piercing, but there was also a reluctance to his expression. Stiles didn't know what could possibly be going through the other man's head—whether he was gaging Stiles' mental stability right then or not—but for some reason, Stiles didn't hesitate to speak his mind. 

 

If Deaton was trying to discern if this was a cry for help from Stiles, then, well . . . maybe it was. Stiles trusted Deaton more than he did himself right then, and maybe handing over a bit of control would help him. Maybe he was a little too drunk, or maybe not drunk enough. 

 

"Yes. My entire pack is dead. My father is dead. My mother is dead. The brother who was closer than blood is dead. I can't close my eyes without seeing their faces, I can't listen to the ringing of silence without their voices echoing in my ears, I can't wake up without a brief moment where I've forgotten and everything seems okay before it's ripped away from me again. I'm seventeen and have almost as many dead loved ones as years I've been alive. I can't sit in a classroom without having a fucking panic attack because I know how many seats are now empty. I can't be around normal humans because they don't know and I feel sick to my stomach at how unfair that is. At any given moment I feel like I'm going to feel a bullet tearing through the back of my skull or claws ripping through my throat." By then, Stiles' breathing had picked up and he was practically heaving as his voice got louder and his words more desperate to be understood. 

 

"What could possibly be left for me!? I don't fit into this world anymore, Deaton! I have been broken and remolded to fight with my very last breath, I have been forced to learn every last dirty and horrible secret in this world and now that knowledge is poisoning me, I learned to always be aware and afraid in order to survive but now that the danger is supposedly over, I can't shut this shit off. There is nothing left for me to fight for, nothing left for me to protect and I can't even run away from this horrible place because they're still dead and I will never be able to forget or ignore that. So, tell me, Deaton, what exactly is supposed the be 'leading me forward?'" Stiles finished harshly, his anger not really directed at the vet—which they both knew—but at everything as a whole. 

 

Deaton sighed, averted his gaze to look at the cabinets across the room, grabbed the bottle from Stiles' grasp and took a long swig. He thought that was the end of the conversation between them and had settled back into the silence. However, a few long moments later, Deaton cut through the dead air with words spoken just barely above a whisper. 

 

"If you really have nothing left here to cherish or look after . . . then . . . there might be a way." It was said so quietly, but it left Stiles' ears ringing anyways as he jolted where he sat and looked back at the older man, not yet daring to let himself process the words. 

 

"What?"  

 

Deaton shook his head, as if waring with himself quietly. Eventually, the vet met his burning stare again. 

 

"From the oaths I took as a Druid, I should not be even speaking of this—and I will probably face the consequences in the afterlife—but . . . most times, the world we live in seems far worse than any punishment I could face after this life. I must reiterate, this is not something I recommend or approve of. However, you have a right to choose your own path and you should know, there is a way to change things. It will come at a price, though, and it will not be cheap." Deaton gave his final warning, even though he knew from the hardening steel of Stiles' expression that the young man would not heed his advice. 

 

"Tell me." Stiles demanded, feeling a fire in his gut that had nothing to do with the alcohol. 

 

"I know of a very old, very dangerous piece of magic that could—theoretically—send a person back in time. It is forbidden magic for Druids and is only meant to be used in the gravest situations when forbidden magic has already caused so much damage and discourse that it can't be allowed to continue with the repercussions. It does not cross dimensions or bring someone to another reality, so once that person leaves their own time, all that has happened between then and where they go back to is unmade, unwoven to be reformed with the new addition of that person and any changes to the timeline they make." Deaton watched carefully to make sure Stiles was understanding the exact meaning of his words. Stiles was nothing if not incredibly clever and intelligent, though. 

 

"All of this, all of the people here, all of the events—good or bad—will be undone as if they never happened." Stiles nodded as he spoke, his stomach dropping like a stone just at the thought of everything dissolving and the only proof of their existence being his own memories. Don't get him wrong, most of the time since Scott was bitten in the woods was hell, but there were also so many good moments that he didn't want to lose. 

 

"That isn't all, in order to circumvent a paradox, the younger 'you' would cease to exist. Stiles Stilinski will have never been born to John and Claudia Stilinski. Time is only flexible enough for you to appear from nowhere, it cannot hold two diverging timelines in one without turning into a loop and preventing you from ever being able to make a change to the timeline and keeping you stuck forever in a constant chain of events. It's necessary, but I won't lie to you and say it will be easy. If you were to go through with it, you wouldn't be getting your old life back. Your friends and family won’t know you. It isn't a 'do-over' as much as it is you getting the opportunity to nudge the timeline just enough to change the outcome and maybe prevent a few people from dying. 

 

"As you mentioned before, this won't be a guarantee, it's just a chance to change things. There's no telling how the timeline will play out once you start changing things. Stiles . . . this won't be a fix, even if you go back, even if you go to a time before their deaths, the memories will still be very real to you and you will still need to bare that burden. I would rather you stay here, with me, and we both move on from this, because if you go back, you go back alone and I won't be able to help you from here as this me will no longer exist. 

 

"The life you got back to, the people you go back to, will not be the same and it will not be what you're looking for. . . So, Stiles, what do you say we chalk this up to a rough night with a little too much to drink, get some much-needed sleep, and maybe in the morning we can look for the greasiest food in town to cure one hell of a hangover?" Deaton asked, expression soft and slightly pleading. 

 

The thought of going back in time and seeing the people who were his entire world not even recognize him was honestly gut-wrenching. Depending on how far back he was sent, Scott and the rest of the pack would only be kids. At best, he might be able to put himself in the role of a cool older kid that was more like a brother than a friend, but he honestly didn't know if he could handle growing close to them knowing that he had seen several of them die with his own eyes and had attended every one of their funerals. He would feel like just his proximity was tainting them or leading them closer to that bleak future. 

 

Honestly, there were many drawbacks to going back and it would probably do Stiles no favors in healing him. There were so many reasons not to, but the one reason to go back seemed to overshadow it all. If he went back, he could potentially save all of them. He had no idea what kind of life he would lead, if he would have any sort of future or if he would be just as inept as he feels now, he didn't know if his appearance would cause suspicion and worry enough for the people he was trying to help to turn on him. 

 

In short, he was trading his past, present, and future for people who were already dead without the guarantee that they would stay alive. 

 

And yet . . . the decision still felt worryingly easy. 

 

Even though Deaton couldn't come with him. Even though it meant leaving his last friend in the world to go to an uncertain place where he had no allies, no backup, no pack to catch him if he fell, not even family to support him in his darkest hour. Even with all of that, Stiles barely hesitated. 

 

"I'll do it." 

 

Stiles had never seen the stoic veterinarian look so somber. 

 

                    

 

The rest of the night was spent pouring over books so old they were practically dust already, planning out the logistics of everything, deciding how far to send him back, and what to do when he got there. 

 

Stiles' first thought was to go back to the night he and Scott went walking around the preserve and Scott was bitten. Since, for Stiles, that was where things took a hard-left turn. Thankfully, Deaton was quick to remind Stiles that things went sour long before then and if they were going to do this, they only had one shot at it so they were going to do things right. 

 

After some debate, they settled on sending Stiles back to prevent Paige's untimely demise. It was after the girl's death that Kate had managed to dig her claws into the impressionable young Derek, which led to the death of his entire pack, which led to a crazy Peter, which led to him killing Laura and biting Scott and so on. 

 

Just as day was breaking through the windows of the clinic, Deaton had finished preparing everything they would need and explaining to Stiles exactly what was going to happen and giving him plenty of opportunity to back out, but Stiles never wavered or second-guessed his decision. They had both since lost any sort of unsteadiness or incoordination from the whiskey. 

 

They had talked a bit about what Stiles should bring with him—even though they didn’t really know if he could even take anything with him. Since Stiles had pretty much been living out of the bag he already had stashed at the clinic, he figured that would be enough. He also took a minute to change out of his black dress clothes and into a comfortable pair of jeans and a jacket. 

 

All the preparations took far less time than he'd imagined when Deaton had spoken about how complicated the magic was. They probably could have finished it all a lot sooner, but he could feel Deaton's reluctance rolling off of him in waves as he meticulously dragged out each step. Stiles didn’t comment on it. 

 

At eight in the morning, the pair ventured out of the clinic and immediately set out into the woods. In case Stiles was transported back to the same spot in the past, it was probably best for him to not suddenly appear in the middle of the unsuspecting vet's clinic and give the man a heart attack. Deaton had asked Stiles before they left if there was anything he needed or wanted to do before they did this. Stiles thought briefly of going to the local cemetery to say goodbye, but the very thought rolled his stomach—he had spent far too much time there recently to find any sort of peace from visiting. No, if he was going to say goodbye, he would do so quietly, in his own mind. 

 

They were silent as they walked. Both consumed by their own thoughts. 

 

Stiles numbly realized, if this worked, he wouldn’t see the sun set that day for many years. He would be in his twenties—twenty-seven if his half-assed mental math was correct—by then. 

 

Deaton stopped walking, tugging Stiles from his hazy mind before he ran into the older man. Taking in his surroundings, Stiles realized that they weren’t actually that deep in the woods and had walked slightly parallel to the road he knew ran through the trees a quarter mile to his left. He also noticed that they were about another quarter mile away from the old ruins of the Hale house if he kept going straight. It gave him equal opportunity to either go straight to the Hale pack, or find the road and head into town first. 

 

Stiles knew he was leaning more towards the former option, feeling a low tugging in his gut to see the wolves alive and well and be around a pack again—even if he technically wasn’t a part of it. 

 

That was the thing the wolves from his old pack never seemed to fully grasp; Stiles wasn’t a were so he didn’t feel the pack bond the way they did, but he had felt it and drew strength from just as much as any of them had. They felt it like a physical thing—a glossy ribbon woven between their ribs that connected them to everyone else, drawn taut so they could feel the little vibrations like the two tin cans and a string he and Scott used to play 'telephone' as kids. 

 

For Stiles, it pooled warmly under his diaphragm and was a little trickier to read but still affected him. Every time he had been away from them for too long, it tightened the muscles between his ribs and bloomed into a fearsome ache in his chest. If someone was hurt or distressed, Stiles felt physically ill and shaky. When someone was overjoyed, it soared through his veins like some kind of drug. And when someone died . . . it felt like his body completely shut down, unbearable stabbing pain like hot knives in his gut, vomiting, dangerously high fevers, such a horrible, deep, radiating agony in his bones that nearly left him bedridden for days. 

 

It hadn’t been anything like that in the beginning, with Erica and Boyd. It progressively got worse as time went on though. He had asked Deaton about it eventually, when Scott had gotten in a nasty fight and Stiles had nearly fainted in the middle of the supermarket without even knowing his friend had been fighting. Deaton had explained that it was a mix of things: Stiles' developing spark mostly, adding on top of that the loss of previous pack members putting a heavy strain on the bond and making it effect them all more fiercely, and lastly, Stiles' own desperation to protect the pack pushing him past what should be possible. 

 

And now that all of his pack bonds were gone, Stiles felt utterly untethered and the pain under his ribs was a constant. If there were any other supernatural creatures left in town, he probably would have sought them out already if only to form one measly little bond. Deaton was a Druid, and they had grown close, but Deaton's bonds would be almost exactly like Stiles' own and it wouldn’t be enough after a while. 

 

Stiles blinked, refocusing on what he was doing with his hands as he helped Deaton to create a fairly rudimentary ritual circle in a mixture of salts and herbs on the forest floor. When it was done, Stiles stepping into the cleared center, careful to not disrupt any of the markings. 

 

He looked up from his feet once he was sure he was standing directly in the center. Deaton was watching him, expression stony. Stiles could now recognize that it meant that the vet was feeling too much and didn’t know what to do with it all except push it down. 

 

“I’ll make things right, I swear.” Stiles vowed. His hard, whiskey colored eyes conveying every ounce of sincerity he could muster in that moment. Deaton shook his head, not breaking eye-contact. 

 

“Stay safe, Stiles.” Deaton rebuffed, it sounding more like a warning than well-wishes. Deaton lifted a pocket knife to his overstretched palm and slashed through the caramel flash unceremoniously. Thick scarlet immediately welled up and began to drip on the mottled white and green-flecked markings on the ground. The droplets caught the morning sun and shown like crimson fireflies as they fell. 

 

Stiles felt all the blood drain from his face and limbs like he had just begun the drop of a steep rollercoaster and he knew it was already happening and he only had moments left. 

 

With his and Deaton’s gazes still locked, Stiles did his best to pull up his most impish, most 'Stiles-esque' grin as he could. And for a moment, he felt more like his old-self than he has in many months. 

 

“Down the rabbit hole we go.” Stiles snarked with a vivid gleam in his eyes and he had just caught the barest hint of a growing smile on Deaton's lips when the man before him suddenly started to move again, only in reverse to his previous actions. Stiles watched in a mix of fascination and uneasiness as Deaton drew the blade up over his palm and the red gash disappeared. With each passing second it got faster and faster, the marks at his feet were sucked back up into their containers and he watched as Deaton worked—alone. The 'him' that he knew had been there just seconds ago was already gone, erased from time as it moved in reverse and was unmade. 

 

In a flash, Deaton was disappearing back through the trees and the sun overhead was dropping back over the horizon. Stiles' stomach was in his shoes and he swayed as day came and went again and again, getting faster and faster. 

 

Entire seasons passed in less than a minute and he watched plants around him spring back to life and then shrink into nothing in the dark soil. He could see the trees growing ever so slightly in reverse. 

 

He could feel the years shaved away as his stomach flipped and his body trembled. Just as Stiles was beginning to fear that Deaton had made a mistake and sent him back too far and he might be stuck going backwards forever until everything was unmade, the frantic reverse around him seemed to gradually slow. The darkness around him slowly lifted and lightened as dawn broke and the morning bloomed over the forest until the sun was directly overhead and creeping its way along the sky. 

 

Finally, Stiles felt himself released from the oppressive weight of whatever magic had been used to send him back and he took his first, deep breath since the whole thing had started. He stumbled a bit out of his rigid stance from the sudden head rush that washed over him. 

 

Looking around curiously, Stiles noted that his surroundings were still familiar. The foliage was definitely different and the trees looked slightly off from before—but they were still in the same places and the dips and swells of the terrain were pretty much the same. It was a comforting thought, if not because it reminded Stiles that this was still Beacon Hills, his home, then it comforted him simply because it meant he would still know his way around these woods. 

 

At that thought, Stiles knew that there was no use in waiting any longer. He had a wolf pack to see. 

 

                     

 

Stepping out from the tree line, Stiles realized that the Hale house was far larger than its charred ruins had suggested in his own time. The main house—which, in and of itself seemed big enough to comfortably house a family of ten, and the part that had stubbornly survived the fire enough to leave behind the burnt husk he remembered—had clearly been remodeled and expanded upon in the last two decades. It was at least two levels up from the ground with what looked to be a sizable attic above the 'main house.' Painted a soft grey-brown that made the monstrosity of a home not stand out so harshly against the tall trees surrounding the property. 

 

There were also other things that seemed to have been lost by the time Stiles first wandered onto Hale land with Scott. Such as the edges of a large and flourishing garden he could see peeking out from around the back of the house, full of vegetables and fruits hanging from thick bushes or tall trees. He could also spot areas littered with children's toys, an abandoned bike, a small shed just beyond the tree line, and a few other miscellaneous items or tools or areas that just looked so . . . domestic that it made Stiles' gut ache. 

 

Shaking his head and forcing his gaze to lock on to the snow-white front door, Stiles put one foot in front of the other and began to cross the large open area. He had not even set foot on the porch steps when the door opened and out stepped a wolf Stiles didn't recognize—a fact he was thankful for in that moment—who was staring him down with a deep frown. Instinctively, Stiles' walls rose higher and he returned the stern look, showing that he would not be cowed by an unfamiliar wolf. 

 

This was not his pack, this was a pack that had been around for generations and he knew that pack hierarchies would be more respected and rigid here—it kept the peace, especially with a pack bigger than a few people, and settled peoples' internal wolves and their instincts enough to not be constantly fighting each other and themselves to try to reach the top and challenge the Alpha. These were things Deaton had told him in the dead of night when Stiles had awoken from what little sleep he managed to catch, screaming, and the ex-emissary had just spoke of anything to fill the silence, not even sure if Stiles was listening as he faced the wall, back leaning against the side of the bed or couch—where ever he had managed to crash at the time. 

 

Stiles blinked and the memory was gone. Either way, it was enough for him to know that he would not show submission to any wolf except the Alpha until his position was made clear (whether he was in the pack or an outsider) otherwise he would automatically be pushed down to the lowest point of the hierarchy and would have a hell of a time getting anyone to listen to or respect him. 

 

"I'm here to see your Alpha." Stiles stated in a curt, stilted tone. It felt like it had been years since he'd even talked to anyone who wasn't Deaton or what remained of his pack. The words felt odd on his tongue. The wolf continued to watch him for a few more beats, maybe trying to determine if he was a threat or not, before jerking his head in a short nod and stepping back while pulling the door open for him. 

 

Stiles approached the waiting wolf, his body rigid with every inch of him on high alert. He knew, objectively, that these wolves would follow a sort of code-of-conduct and not just randomly pounce on him. However, it seemed that the past few years—the past few months—had done more damage than he realized and it caused him to be as tense as if he had a gun pressed to his temple even when his brief glimpse of the large living area he got while the other wolf led him deeper into the house, he spotted more discarded toys and a few abandoned coloring books. 

 

With how on edge he was, Stiles immediately picked up on how quiet and eerily empty the house seemed as they waked up a large dark wood stained staircase to a balcony overlooking the entryway. They had probably noticed his presence before he'd even left the woods and had already moved all the children and wolves who didn't fight to a safer location. 

 

The wolf escorted him over to a thick wooden door that was a few steps away from the balcony overlooking the front door. Stiles didn't allow himself to dwell on the fact that he was about to meet Talia Hale, the respected Alpha and even more cherished mother. Instead, he kept his mind and face completely blank as he followed the man into the room that appeared to be an office at first glance. What caught him off guard, though, was the fact that it wasn't just Talia, but also what seemed to be every adult wolf from the pack. Which, was not just a handful as Stiles had predicted, but over a dozen wolves, all staring him down as if ready to jump him at a moment's notice. Just how big was the Hale Pack? 

 

Stiles had little trouble closing himself off and keeping his expression blank as he glanced at the other wolves briefly before turning his gaze to settle on the woman standing directly across from him, with the other wolves lining the edges of the room. The man who had escorted him left him at the back of the room and immediately found a place close to Talia's side. 

 

Talia herself cut an impressive image. She was tall, with long silky black hair, dark almond-shaped eyes, a sharp bone-structure, a subtle strength to her build and slight curve of muscles that bespoke of power and skill, lightly muscled arms crossed over her chest. Her dark gaze bore into Stiles as if she could separate flesh from bone with just her eyes alone. Perhaps it could. Stiles could feel the presence of the Alpha pressing down on him like a clawed hand on the back of his neck. Yet, he kept his head held high, his only show of submission was the purposeful lowering of his eyes after a few moments to convey he was not here for a fight. The Alpha didn't relax a single muscle, neither did he, but it seemed to get his message across clearly enough as she broke the silence. 

 

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Her voice was rougher than he imagined but seemed to suit her rather well. Stiles raised his eyes to meet hers again, his message delivered and done with. 

 

"My name is Stiles. I've come only to inform you that I will be staying in Beacon Hills for the foreseeable future. Beacon Hills is part of your territory and I don't want any trouble by settling here without coming to warn you first." It wasn't a request. He knew that Talia technically had the authority and power to force him out of Beacon Hills, but that was usually only done when that person was deemed an immediate or dangerous threat to the pack, which he was more likely to be labeled as if he settled in town without seeing them first. 

 

"Any pack affiliations?" Talia asked in a hard tone. Stiles' stomach clenched at the question, but he knew he had to answer her. She needed to be assured that he wouldn't be leading another pack onto her territory and possibly causing a fight over the land. Clenching his jaw, he otherwise did not react outwardly. 

 

"No. No affiliations, no bonds, just me." Talia hardly blinked, but Stiles caught movement in his peripheral that told him several of the wolves were exchanging looks. After all, he was a full spark and they sought out pack bonds just as much as any omega wolf would—just without the going-rabid part. 

 

"You're a spark." Talia stated, not a question but a clarification. She seemed to be thinking along the same lines of everyone else in the room. 

 

"Yes." Was all Stiles offered. He was not about to share every little bloody detail about how he had a pack, and then lost it. They can come to their own conclusions about him, that would stay private for as long as he can manage. 

 

Talia didn't seem impressed by his lack of information, and let it be known by the silence that followed his curt reply as she continued to scrutinize him. 

 

However, the silence didn't last long. A very familiar voice broke the silence with a simple, soft-spoken question. 

 

"How old are you?" Stiles didn't have to turn to know the emissary stood off to his right, almost hidden amongst the wolves. Stiles was careful not to react as he finally did look at Deaton. The man who had very quickly come to be a father-figure to Stiles after his own had passed, looked decades younger. It wasn't really his physical age, more that there was a gentle innocence to his face that the spark had never seen before. 

 

Digesting the man's question, Stiles felt a flare of anxiety in his chest. He didn't want to outright admit to being a minor, because he did not need 'adult intervention' if they saw him as some runaway kid or something. He also couldn't outright lie and tell them a false age since they would hear it in his pulse right away, and he knew he still looked pretty young, despite his dark circles and guarded expression. So, he would have to settle on a lesser evil, even if what he was about to say left it pretty clear what his answer was. 

 

"I can handle myself just fine." He said instead, voice hard and unyielding as he leveled the emissary with a cold look that made it clear he didn't appreciate nor welcome the probing. Deaton looked a little lost as for how he should reply, but Stiles didn't give him the chance, turning back to Talia. Talia was watching him much like before, but now there was a faint hint of thoughtfulness to her face as she glanced at Deaton for a moment and then back at him, considering what had been said. Stiles stood as still as possible as he tracked her gaze slipping to the straps of his backpack looping his shoulders, to his worn sneakers, and the back up to his closed-off whiskey colored eyes. 

 

He knew she wasn't the only one assessing his appearance, all the other stares pressing in on him like a physical touch and setting his already tense nerves all the way to the cliff's edge. Stiles felt caged and had to reign in rigid control over his body to keep himself from lashing out on instinct. Before, he had been almost eager to finally be around wolves again. Clearly, he had overestimated his endurance for being surrounded by so many supernatural creatures because, right then, all his body was interpreting their presence as was 'THREAT' from every corner of his mind. 

 

If he ended up around so many wolves for too long in the future, he knew he would end up getting in fights. Make no mistake, he might be human, but Stiles and the rest of his pack had decided pretty early on that he needed to be able to defend himself against werewolves and any other creature that came after them, at least for long enough until someone else could help him. Well, it turns out that, as awkward as Stiles seemed most of the time, he had a knack for fighting. Not the organized, precise martial arts that Allison had tried to teach him in the beginning. No, he excelled far more in the gritty, brutal, going all out by the skin of his teeth kind of fighting. What had started as self-defense lessons had turned into rough scrapes and fights with the wolves until he became confident in his ability to defend himself. 

 

It was probably the only reason he survived out of everyone. He was underestimated for being a human, but he could defend himself when someone tried to use him to get to the others. 

 

Point was, Stiles could hold his own in a fight and if those wolves who he caught looking at him like they had a right to know his whole life story continued to look like that in the future, he wasn't confident in how well he could restrain himself. 

 

"Do you have a place to stay?" Talia's voice brought Stiles' full attention back to her and his irritation faded as he processed her words. Once again, paranoid he was one slip away from having Child Protective Services called on his ass, Stiles toed the line. 

 

"I'm resourceful." Was all he said, careful not to grit his teeth when he spoke, but it was a near thing and he could tell by the flicker of amusement in Talia's dark eyes that it had not gone unseen. 

 

"Do you have a family, Stiles?" Talia asked, some of the harshness of her posture draining away. Stiles silence hung thickly in the atmosphere. She took that as an answer. "Friends?" More silence. 

 

Stiles wasn't sure how to react. On one hand, her questions were going down a path that told Stiles she was starting to see him as more of a runaway kid than an adult, which put him at risk of being handed over to the police to deal with—something Stiles really couldn't handle right then. On the other hand, Talia seemed to be seeing him as less of a threat the more pitiful his situation appeared to her. No family, no friends, no pack, just a backpack and steel in his gaze. 

 

Finally, Talia nodded as she seemed to have decided something quietly. Everyone in the room was utterly still as they waited. A few curious stares remained on Stiles, the wariest of them didn't waver their gazes from him either, but the rest looked to Talia in trepidation. They sensed whatever their Alpha was going to say and didn't seem very happy about it, which forced Stiles to lock his muscles up to keep from doing something stupid—like making a break for the nearest exit. 

 

"Well, Stiles. If you understand that this land is my territory, then you must also know that it is mine to protect." Stiles' ears rang and his gut twisted, palms becoming sweaty as he anticipated some sort of attack. 

 

He'd been wrong. Talia saw him as too much of a threat. Maybe she could tell he used to run with wolves and thought he was secretly bringing another pack into the territory. Or maybe she thought he had turned against his nature as a spark and had become a hunter, planning to take down her pack. Either way, Stiles felt like he was moments away from meeting his fate and joining his lost pack. 

 

Except he couldn't even do that anymore. Stiles felt the blood drain from his face as he finally saw a consequence to his actions he wasn't sure he could deal with. For months, the only thing keeping him going was the fact that he knew his most precious loved ones were waiting for him on the other side and if anything ever happened he would finally get to rest with them. But now? He'd fucked it all up! He'd undone all of their deaths, erased himself from their lives so that even when they passed in this life they would no longer be there to reunite with him. He hadn't just given up his past, present, and future . . . he'd given up his very peace after death! 

 

All those funerals. All that time carefully planning out resting places and arrangements. All those nights spent secretly huddled over a grave and whispering to the pack he'd lost. All of it meant nothing. It was real—that he couldn't argue—every death had been real and would follow him for the remainder of his—probably—short life. But now he would be the only one to bare that weight. 

 

The gale winds of his own mind never registered on his skin, and Stiles did his best to pay attention and stand tall before the Alpha. If this was his end, he would bare the pride of his old, dead pack on his shoulders and face it with dignity. He would much rather it be at the hand of someone who he had always been told was just and respected, than some dirty unknown creature in the woods or a bloodthirsty hunter. When Stiles spoke, he was proud to know his voice was strong and unafraid. 

 

"I understand, Alpha Hale. My deepest apologies for entering your private home without permission. You seem to have a large and flourishing pack here and I know you only do as you must." It was the most he'd said all at once since his initial introduction, and he was already feeling a bit strained from having to speak up so much. He quietly mused over a time when he knew it was everyone's goal to get him to pipe down, he wondered what they would think of him now. . . 

 

It took a moment for the meaning of Stiles' words to get through to the Alpha, her confused frown morphing into a flash of surprise before finally settling on a firmness that came easily to her features. 

 

"We are not going to hurt you, Stiles. You misunderstand, I said before that it is my duty to protect this territory, which includes all those who reside here. If you are looking to live in Beacon Hills, then that would include you." Something softened in her eyes as she sighed and shifted her weight. 

 

"This is not an official invitation into the pack, as we still know very little about you and that might not even be what you want but . . . you're young, and you're alone, and as a spark, you need to be around the supernatural to, at the very least, keep yourself from becoming ill. We have plenty of space and resources here to house you until you decide to either join us or move on to another pack. You seem strong, and I feel we could benefit from your company, if only for a little while. 

 

"However, keep in mind that you will be watched. You seem like a good kid, Stiles, but I must protect my pack before anything else, so we will be keeping eyes on you until we feel you can be trusted. There are quite a few pups in this pack and I'm sure you understand we will not tolerate any of them being hurt." She spoke sternly, trying to get her point across without wanting to spook the already rigid teenager. 

 

Stiles couldn't comprehend what was happening. They were . . . telling him to stay?! Why? 

 

"Why?" The question pierced through the air and for a moment, Stiles thought he had been the one to say it, but then he saw Talia's sharp gaze shoot to one of the other wolves off to his left. Stiles turned just as a wolf stepped forward with purpose, addressing his Alpha. He was nearly a head taller than Stiles, had maybe a decade on him, and corded with enough muscle to register him as an immediate threat in Stiles' mind. He had short cropped black hair, startlingly pale skin, coal-black eyes, and a jagged pink scar that ran a shallow valley from the bridge of his straight nose, over the hollow of his cheek, and to the hard corner of his jaw. 

 

He would have looked handsome to Stiles if it weren't for the harsh scar that had probably been painful when he'd gotten it, and the look in his eyes that Stiles immediately recognized. It was a look he saw in his pack members near the very end, one that he didn't doubt others had seen in him. This man had ghosts, had scars that lined the inside of his ribs where no one could see, he knew well what it was like to spent what felt like an eternity fighting within an inch of his life. Also, considering how quickly werewolves healed, the scar on his face was either something done by an Alpha, or he was a turned wolf and it had happened before the bite and had been too deep to be healed completely by the bite. As Stiles couldn't see Talia as one to punish her own pack so harshly and with physical violence, then that would mean he was from another pack if it was a wound from an Alpha. 

 

So far, this wolf who had just spoken up against his Alpha for her decision to welcome Stiles into their home, was the most like him out of everyone, it seemed. Because of that, Stiles felt both wary and relieved. Relieved, because he felt like he could understand and predict this wolf better than the others. Even if his 'prediction' was that this one would be the most resistant to Stiles staying. After all, he would be the exact same way—and had been in the past with his own pack—if their roles were reversed. 

 

"This could be a trap. We know nothing about him, he could be a hunter or sent from another pack to take us down. He even said so himself, he's fine on his own, he doesn't need our help. Look, I'm not saying we kill him or anything, I just don't think he should stay here." The wolf argued, and Stiles couldn't help but agree with him. He never asked for a place in their pack, he never asked for their help. He'd only planned on coming back to do a little guiding from the shadows too keep everything from falling apart. Prevent Paige's death? Easy, he just has to tail the girl and stop her from getting bitten in the first place. After that, he had no other plans. He only saw his future as far as him making sure to change the flow of the timeline enough to save a few people. 

 

"Mark." Talia's tone was dripping with warning. He was challenging her decision, and while, that was something she usually welcomed in her pack to keep her on the right path, right now they were in the middle of a meeting with someone who was technically an outsider. Her instincts warred with her on the public challenge and she had to fight it down because she knew it was not a challenge for her position as Alpha. He just wanted to keep them safe. Taking a breath, she spoke. 

 

"I understand your concerns, but we are more than capable of protecting the rest of the pack until we know he can be trusted. He is not even a wolf and he clearly has no pack bonds. He may not have asked for our help—he may not even want it—but that doesn't mean he doesn't need it. You know what being an omega can do to a wolf; as a spark, it is different but the end results can be the same." Death. She didn't say it, but they all knew what she was speaking of. Stiles knew, he just hadn't really put any weight on that fact. There were more important things than what might happen weeks, or months from now. 

 

Stiles looked at the other wolf—Mark—and saw his jaw clench at her words. He had been an omega, then. 

 

"This pack has always offered asylum to those in need, and we will continue to do so. If it truly concerns you so much, then you can be the one to watch him. If he is able to convince you of all people of his character, then that will be enough for me." Talia's words rang with finality. She was putting the stubborn wolf in charge of watching Stiles not only as a caution, but because she knew that if the spark ever did decide to join her pack, Mark would be the first to object. If this Stiles, can prove himself to the most stubborn of them, then he is more than worthy of being a part of her pack. 

 

Stiles watched silently as Mark's full lips tightened into a hard line and his frame seemed to clench with mounting frustration. He would not speak up again, though, as that would mean a true challenge to Talia. Mark turned to look at Stiles once, black eyes locking on him as if waiting for him to make a move, before stepping back to his original spot near the wall. His eyes never leaving Stiles for a moment and he knew they wouldn't until Stiles was off their property. If he stayed, he knew Mark would do as Talia suggested and take up the mantel of guarding Stiles, if only to make sure he couldn't try anything. Mark wouldn't hesitate because of Stiles' age or human status, he would do what was necessary to protect the pack and for that he held a little bit of respect for the man. 

 

When he looked back over to the Alpha, she was watching him with a soft mixture of triumph and relief in her expression. She felt she had won the argument and things were settled. Except, Stiles had never expressed ant inclination to wanting to stay. 

 

"I appreciate your concern, Alpha Hale, but it was unnecessary. I didn't come here looking for help, I only wished to make my presence known so there wouldn't be any problems in the future. If you do not plan on making me leave Beacon Hills, then all I ask is for some quiet." He broached carefully, remaining respectful, but hopefully firm in his resolve. Talia looked bewildered. 

 

"Do you not understand what you are, and what will happen to you if you leave? You're a spark, Stiles, you can't just be around humans or else your health—your life will be in danger." She explained hastily. Stiles just blinked. 

 

"I know." His voice wasn't tight, it wasn't pained or grave, it was just . . . blank. His calmness seemed to unnerve some of the wolves around the room, but he didn't look to see what might be flittering through their expressions as they shifted and turned to mutter something to the person next to them. For a while, Talia didn't seem to know what to say to that. It was someone else who spoke up, instead. 

 

"Stiles." He turned and tried to remain neutral when meeting Deaton's gaze. "I know you just want to be alone and this might all be quite overwhelming to you. You seem to be very independent and none of us are planning to take that away from you. We aren't doing this so you'll join the pack or give us something in return. We are only offering you a place to sleep tonight. And if, tomorrow, you feel comfortable enough, we would like you to stay again. This isn't a commitment, you can take it one day at a time and decide later what you want to do. You are not the first we've opened our home to, and if you decide in the end you wish to leave, then you wouldn't be the first in that either. How about you go get cleaned up, get something to eat, sleep, and then think about what it is that you want. Okay?" His voice was smooth and calming and so horribly familiar. 

 

Stiles felt himself crumbling even as he tried to pull up reasons to refuse. It ran the risk of him running into his own pack—before they were his pack—but he ran the same risk by going into town. In fact, he'd probably see a lot more people he used to know in town than amongst the wolf pack that had been almost completely wiped out before he knew any of them. Plus, there were two specific people in town he knew he couldn't bear to see any time soon. If the year was right, then it was still a year until Claudia Stilinski was discovered to have the degenerative disease and began counting her remaining days. 

 

If he stayed, he wouldn't have to see them yet. If he stayed, he'd also have a slightly better shot of being there to prevent Paige's demise. There wasn't a good reason for him not to stay and as they've assured him, this wasn't a commitment. That last statement didn't feel true even in his thoughts. 

 

Stiles turned to the Alpha and with a soft sigh, he bobbed his head in a singular nod. The pleased look from earlier returned and the Alpha dismissed the other wolves. The only ones to remain in the room after a few moments was Talia, Stiles, and Mark who seemed to have already begun his watch. Talia sent the man an unimpressed look but seemed to decide it wasn't worth another argument as she turned her attention back to Stiles. When the Alpha approached him, Stiles realized she was a few inches taller than him, he noted curiously. 

 

"I'm glad you decided to stay Stiles, at least, for now. How about I show you around a bit and we can find a room for you." She offered, her rough voice dampened by her soft smile. Stiles just dipped his head in a nod and stepped beside her when she left the room. Stiles could practically feel Mark following them a few paces behind, watching his every move. 

 

Talia began to show him around the huge home as if he was a welcomed guest instead of the refugee he felt like. They started on the ground floor, Talia absently mentioning a basement that was mostly just storage. The ground floor was mostly living space, amenities like the kitchen, a make-shift infirmary, a few rooms that belonged to the few elders of the pack so that they didn't have to constantly use the stairs, a playroom for the pups, as well as a room Talia said was used for teaching the children. She mentioned something vague about them homeschooling their children while they still had little control over their wolves. Stiles was curious but he remained quiet. 

 

The second floor was mostly bedrooms with the occasional office or sitting room—which, the sitting room looked like it had been decorated and furnished by teenagers as it was mostly mismatched couches, chairs, pillows and even a bean-bag or two with a clunky computer in the corner sat at a desk. Actually, most of the bedrooms were in the connected expansions to the house, with only three on that floor a part of the original structure. 

 

Talia pointed to one door next to the office they'd been in earlier and told him that the room belonged to her and her husband—Frank—who he would meet later. One of the other two rooms belonged to her second, Greg, who was the same wolf that escorted Stiles into the house when he arrived. The last belonged to her daughter, Laura, who was next in line to take over as Alpha—which he knew already. 

 

Talia made sure to show him each available guest bedroom, avid on him deciding for himself where he would like to stay. They had quite a few open rooms, as Talia had said she was always hopeful for expanding the pack. She was in the process of showing him one room, which overlooked the back yard—the garden he saw a bit of earlier was much larger than he'd anticipated—when she spoke up to ask about something that had nothing to do with their little 'tour.' 

 

"It is quite strange for a spark to develop fully without a pack, did you have someone teach you how to do it on your own?" Her tone was light, curious as she watched him looking out the window, Mark stationed stoically in the doorway with his thick muscular arms crossed over his broad chest. Solid, like a mountain. 

 

"I had a pack." Stiles answered without really thinking, but the thought of pretending they hadn't existed felt even worse than whatever questions might follow that statement. He saw Mark tense in the doorway, but his attention didn't linger on the man. Talia's brows jumped up on her smooth forehead. 

 

"Oh? Then--" 

 

"Talia." Mark interrupted before she could ask what Stiles knew she wanted to know—'then why aren't you with them?' Mark gave her a meaningful look when she turned to him. Mark's dark eyes then shifted to Stiles. "They're gone?" The implication of his words was clear. Stiles felt a little grateful that Mark seemed to understand the situation and wouldn't be coaxing out the agonizing truth under the impression of amicable curiosity. 

 

"Yeah. They've found rest." Was all he said, turning away again so he didn't see the dawning horror on the Alpha's face. He brushed off her apologies with a gentle shake of his head. Wishing to change the subject, Stiles asked what had been circling around in his head ever since she started showing him guest rooms. 

 

"Do you have any . . . any rooms away from the others?" He spoke tentatively. At Talia's pursed lips, Stiles elaborated. "Sometimes I sleep quite . . . fitfully, and I'd rather not wake anyone up in the middle of the night." Stiles implied, knowing that any sleep he did catch would not be restful. Talia's eyes flicked down to the dark purple shadows under his eyes for a second. 

 

"I'm not sure if—the attic maybe? It was converted into an extra room before the expansions, it still has a bed and everything, but no one really stays up there anymore. It can get quite drafty, the cubs avoid it because some think it's haunted, and the older wolves don't really like it because it's further away from the rest of the pack. We have wolves that live in town, of course, but the ones that live here prefer to stay close—especially the ones with children. I don't know how comfortable it'll be, especially with winter nights, but I can take you up to see it?" 

 

Stiles nodded gratefully, following Talia out and back towards the central structure of the house. Mark followed a little further back than before, appearing to be slightly distracted by something. As they walked, Stiles picked up on the sounds of movement and very muffled voices throughout the house. The other wolves must have come out or come back from where they were whisked off to when he arrived. He could even hear the high-whines of a child trying to manipulate someone into giving them something. 

 

The narrow stairs leading up to the attic were tucked away behind a door between a linen closet and a bathroom. The stairs were bare, worn wood but thankfully they didn't groan or creak as they ascended save for the very first step—as if it had been stood on over and over again but they had always changed their mind before reaching the second step. Probably the kids. Brats. 

 

The attic was quite large, completely open with a surprising number of windows nestled into the slanted walls. The air was pretty stale and stagnant from the lack of use making Stiles' nose burn and itch, but that could be fixed with just opening a window. The air was surprisingly warm, heated by the hot beams of sunlight streaming through the windows and illuminating the lazily drifting dust motes that fell like burning snow. On one end of the room, Stiles could see a few stacks of boxes that were shoved haphazardly in the corner—probably more storage. On the other end sat a double bed and a few pieces of dusty furniture. 

 

"If you wanted to stay up here we'd obviously have to change out the bedding and wipe things down a little, but otherwise, what do you think?" 

 

Stiles looked around the room once more before nodding. It would work just fine. 

 

Talia seemed to be getting used to his non-verbal responses. Talia gladly left and came back with an armful of bedding and a few rags to wipe everything down. Stiles quickly offered to do it but was waved off by the bright Alpha and reluctantly was only allowed to help her. Mark only threw open a window to help, and then proceeded to lean against it until they were done. 

 

"I'll leave you to get settled then, Stiles. Lunch should be ready at noon so try to come down some time around then." Talia was already walking down the stairs when she stopped and turned to Stiles once more. "I never caught your last name before. . ." She trailed off, prompting him to answer. Making a split decision—his existence may have been erased, but the Stilinski name hadn't. 

 

"Actually, Stiles is my last name, I just go by it since my first name is a little . . . tricky." 

 

"Oh? Try me." Talia challenged lightly, a smile curving her lips. 

 

"Meiczyslaw." He deadpanned, watching the slight wince on Talia's face as she silently tried to copy his name before giving up and shaking her head. 

 

"Stiles it is!" And with that, she left. 

 

Mark followed her a moment later, but Stiles knew he wasn't going far and would probably wait for him by the door at the bottom of the stairs, his watch having officially begun. Stiles was just thankful he would have at least a bit of privacy, even though Mark was probably keenly listening to his movements right then. 

 

Stiles plopped down on the bed and pulled his backpack around into his lap. The majority of the bag was full of a weeks' worth of clothes that he had just been washing and cycling through lately. Other than that, he had a few toiletries, whatever cash he and Deaton could scrape together last minute, and his phone along with his charger. 

 

It was a long shot to see if the device still worked after the jump through time. Stiles was surprised when it flicked on without any problem. He knew he couldn’t call anyone with it—his phone didn’t actually exist yet and he definitely didn’t have a service provider for it. However, his phone was technically a miniature computer with the capabilities of providing its own internet connection via WiFi. Hopefully, that would still work. 

 

It was almost painfully slow, but by some miracle, it worked. First things first, Stiles looked up the current date—since the magic to send him back was not an exact science and it wasn’t as if Stiles could ask someone here about the day, month, and year without coming off as insane. 

 

December 5 th  2003.  

 

Oh.  

 

If what Deaton told Stiles was accurate, Derek and Paige hadn’t even met yet. She moved here from New Mexico in the spring. On top of that, Kate and Gerard's reign of terror wouldn’t move to town for over a year from now. 

 

Stiles dropped his phone into his lap with a sigh. Well . . . on one hand, this made Stiles' job of keeping Paige alive a whole lot easier. All he had to do was keep Derek and Paige from ever getting together in the first place. As impossible as it seemed to keep reckless, hormonal teens away from each other, it would be worlds harder to get between them if they had already latched on. He just needed to make sure the teen-wolf-brat kept it in his pants for the next half-year. Stiles groaned inwardly at the prospect of making himself the chief of the abstinence-patrol. 

 

On the other hand, besides his job becoming a little more straight-forward, what the hell was Stiles supposed to do in the meantime?! It would be a while until he even needed to think about interfering. What would he do until then? 

 

Stiles' tired gaze shifted over to the stairs, replaying Talia's invitation to eat lunch before she left. Stiles huffed an exhale between his parted lips and levered himself off the bed. He didn’t exactly wish to see anyone else, but he couldn’t exactly starve himself in his borrowed room for the next few months. Instead of unpacking his bag, Stiles just slid it under his bed. He didn’t know when he might have to leave at a moment’s notice. He also slid his phone into his pocket instead of his bag, in case a wolf got a little too curious for their own good and went snooping. 

 

After all, he was the outsider. 

 

Stiles zipped up his hoody and shoved his hands in his pockets as he descended the steps. As he had expected, Mark was waiting right outside the door to the stairs, a prominent glare on his face as he stood rigidly, for all intents and purposes looking like a prison guard ready to escort a criminal. Thankfully though, if there was one thing he could appreciate about the man, it was that he was just as reluctant to speak as Stiles was. 

 

Unlike when Talia had given him a tour earlier, Mark now made a point of walking only a step behind Stiles. Looming like a shadow over him. It made his skin itch and it was completely impossible to relax—which he supposed was the point. 

 

Stiles did his best to remember the layout of the house in order to take the most direct route to the kitchen so as not to take any unnecessary detours and give Mark a reason to doubt his intentions. He would eat, and then he would retreat to his new room. He wasn’t interested in exploring. He wasn't curious about the house or its residents. He rather be a shadow that haunts the attic than try to carve out a space for himself amongst these strangers. 

 

Which is why Stiles nearly turned right back around when he reached the joined kitchen and dining room and found it to be bustling with wolves. When he turned, he was met with the wide chest of a wolf filling the doorway behind him and preventing any sort of retreat. Mark raised one dark brow at him and made it quite clear that Stiles was meant to stay and eat. Sighing, Stiles found an open seat at the table and plopped down, ignoring the sudden quiet and the feeling of so many eyes on him as he began to eat. 

 

Most of the wolves he recognized at a glance from the meeting earlier. They watched him with open wariness, distrust, or even disdain as he ate. A handful of other adult wolves that had not been in attendance to the meeting sent him plenty of curious looks, but kept their distance based on the tension in the room. Lastly, there were about six young wolves of varying age under 13 that seemed eager to get to know the newcomer. However, the pups were all kept from making any moves towards him or trying to spark up a conversation with him by their overprotective parents. One woman even went so far as to pull her cub into her lap because he was closer to Stiles than she was and she didn't like not being able to properly protect her child if something were to happen. 

 

The company wasn't welcoming, but then again, neither was Stiles. He diligently ate his food under such heavy scrutiny, but the aura rolling off of him was as unfriendly as possible. In other circumstances, if Stiles had been younger and hadn't gone through the things he had—if Stiles hadn't changed so much—then he would probably be blabbing away, chattering his way past people's defenses the way he was infamous for. But now . . . it was just easier to keep them away than try to fake his way through it. 

 

Stiles noticed Mark getting himself some food as well, but the wolf never let his guard down—if anything, Stiles being around the pack made him ten times tenser—twitching and his gaze flickering over to him whenever Stiles so much as shifted. It was clearly only a matter of time before Mark blew his lid and attacked Stiles over the smallest misstep. If Talia had put Mark in charge of watching him and had intended on Stiles relaxing or going without getting hurt—or killed—then she had way too much faith in the wolf. 

 

Stiles might not know everything there was to know about the supernatural world, but he knew a whole lot about people like Mark. Mark puts a lot of faith in his wolf and acts more like an actual wolf than a man. Mark won't settle down until he and Stiles have fought and one of them submitted. It sounded weird and primitive, but in a strange way, it made sense if you took a step back to look at the situation. Mark wasn't born into this pack, it had probably taken him a long time to figure out where he stood within the pack and what his unspoken 'ranking' was. So, when you throw in a strange face that you knew nothing about and could potentially be dangerous, Mark didn't know where he stood with Stiles and he needed to sort it out—and soon. 

 

If Mark won the little battle of sorts, then he would feel confident in knowing he was stronger and more capable than Stiles and could put him in his place if he did something wrong. If Stiles won, then Mark's wolf would just have to accept that Stiles was above him and if Stiles did something Mark didn't like, it wouldn't be Mark's place to punish him, it would be the job of someone above them both. It was a system that wasn't enforced in most packs—this one included, at least not to that extent—and being of 'lower rank' wouldn't really stop someone from speaking out against a misdeed, but Mark relied more on his instincts as a wolf and he would honor that system enough for them to not be at each other's throats every second. 

 

That being said, Stiles sure as hell wasn't going to make the first move. It may be inevitable and necessary, but him attacking first would be a quick way getting the whole pack to turn on him and either kick him out or kill him. For now, he would just endure and wait it out. He doubted Mark would wait long. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles ran into his second familiar face quicker than he would have liked. After traveling through time, meeting with half a werewolf pack, getting his own personal guard, and a room in the attic all in one day, Stiles had decided he needed a break from so many people and had escaped to his new room after lunch, he didn't come out for the rest of the evening except to use the bathroom right at the bottom of the stairs. Talia had come knocking to tell him that dinner was ready and he should come down but Stiles didn’t answer, hoping she assumed he was asleep—or at least respected his attempts to pretend to be asleep if she could hear in his heart beat that he was still awake. 

 

Perhaps it could be seen as a little childish on his part. Hiding up in his room and skipping dinner, but Stiles didn't really care how it made him look. He wasn't avoiding them because he was shy or petty with teenage angst. Lunch was one thing, a good portion of the pack would either be in class—for those old enough to control the shift—or at work. What Stiles had faced earlier had just been a handful of pups and some of their parents. 

 

Dinner would undoubtedly involve most of the house being in attendance. Just the thought of it had Stiles feeling out of breath and like he was going to shake right out of his own skin. Stiles didn't do well in crowds even before everything went to hell. Now? Now it was a nightmare. Think what they may, Stiles needed time to himself or else he'd end up putting a dinner fork through someone's hand and work himself up into a full-blown panic while he did it. It was just better and safer for everyone if he kept his distance as much as possible. 

 

Besides that, truth be told, he was exhausted. After having not slept a wink the night before because of the funeral and trying to figure out how to send Stiles back. Add onto that weeks of only catching a few hours when he couldn't will himself awake for any longer or Deaton having put something in his tea to make sleep come easily and dreamlessly. It was no wonder Stiles was out with the sun. And maybe it had a little to do with being so near a live and healthy pack, despite his issues with actually being with them, but he wasn't trying to put too much thought into how their proximity was settling something restless inside him right then. 

 

It wasn't until the next morning, while he was feeling achingly good from the hours of rest but ultimately having to answer to the demands of his growling stomach, that Stiles found himself blinking up at another familiar face as he stood in the kitchen, hand stuck halfway up his shirt so he could scratch his stomach and his mouth watered at the scent of sizzling breakfast meats. 

 

He blinked again. Derek blinked back, slice of buttered toast half-shoved into his stuffed cheeks like a hamster. A six-foot-tall hamster with unfairly broad shoulders and the physique that usually had coach foaming at the mouth to get them on his team. Derek wasn't as muscular as the Derek Stiles remembered, but the kid had obviously hit his growth-spurts early in life. Aside from the lack of added bulk to his arms and chest, the smooth stubble-free face, and wide-eyed youthfulness that seemed to leak from every pore, Derek looked so similar to how he remembered that it almost hurt. Deaton had been hard to look in the eye, but he and Deaton had only grown close recently. Derek was . . .  God! Derek was his fucking pack! 

 

This Derek was probably around the age of fifteen-sixteen if he remembered correctly. It didn't really matter that Stiles was only seventeen, looking at Derek now, they felt decades apart. 

 

Derek quickly swallowed the food in his mouth, which looked painful if the boy's wince was anything to go by. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and took a few steps forward. 

 

"How's it going? Mom told me we'd be having someone new staying here from now on, but you didn't show up for dinner so. . ." Derek trailed off, shifting his stance slightly, shoulders dropping and tugging in slightly as he scratched the back of his head, like he was trying to make himself smaller. 

 

Derek also couldn't seem to look Stiles in the eye for more than a second and it only served to remind Stiles how different he was to his old self. The old Stiles would have been a chittering mess, enthusiastic to make a new friend but not confident enough in himself to make eye contact either. As it stands, Stiles was still, calm, watching Derek unwaveringly. 

 

Derek really did look different. His light green eyes were bright and open and reminded Stiles a bit of hazy pale green of forest foliage through the down pour of heavy rain. His strong eyebrows seemed to always have a slight pull upwards that gave Stiles the impression of a curious little pup instead of the intimidating furrow he remembered. His hair was also longer and messier, like he still wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing with it aside from washing and combing it when it got too tangled. 

 

Overall, he was young and full of boundless energy and light and curiosity. Stiles felt something clench in his gut and he wasn't really sure what it was, but if he had to hazard a guess, he would say it was his purpose here having been reinvigorated. He had to keep this from being lost in the fire. If this is what Derek was before the fire, before life started to break him down, then he would do everything he could to keep him safe. 

 

"Oh! My name is Derek, by the way. I'm Talia's son." Derek supplied with a blinding smile after Stiles had apparently taken too long to answer. Stiles glanced down to see that the wolf was holding out his hand for him to shake, but it was tilted at an odd angle, as if he weren't really sure or aware of what he was doing. Deciding not to comment on it, Stiles shifted his attention to the food laying out in steaming piles on plates on the kitchen counters. 

 

"Stiles." Was his curt reply, stepping around Derek in order to assemble a plate for himself. The wolf made a curious noise behind him and turned to trail after the human. 

 

"Is that your actual name?" Derek implored, reaching out and grabbing bites of food here and there as he followed no more than a foot behind Stiles—sometimes he could feel Derek step on the hem of his pants as he walked and then quickly retreat before Stiles tripped. 

 

"It's my last name." Stiles mumbled distractedly (not exactly a lie considering the nickname had been derived from his last name) his mouth watering as he threw a few more pieces of bacon than was probably considerate to the others of the house who had yet to eat, but he really didn't care. 

 

"Oh? Then what's your first name?" 

 

"Trust me kid, you don't want to know." Mark answered from the edge of the room. His tone was teasing and playful, but when Stiles glanced up, Mark's glare directed at him was as dangerous as ever. Message received, Stiles thought as he sat down at the almost empty dining table, 'watch your step around the Alpha's son' it said. 

 

Derek ignored Mark and waited for Stiles to answer him instead, but when he didn't, the teen's mood seemed to slip. Though Stiles had to give credit where it was due, Derek persisted in trying to coax Stiles into more conversation as he ate—with little success. Eventually, Derek had to leave to get ready for school. He seemed confused when he realized Stiles wouldn't be going as well. He seemed adamant in the fact that he and Derek were the same age. Stiles only said he was older and didn't need to go to school—true enough to not tick in his pulse and give him away. 

 

As soon as Derek had left, Mark turned back to Stiles with a deep frown. 

 

"Talia said she wanted to see you once you were done eating." Mark stated stiffly, clearly intending for them to leave now. Stiles raised a brow and glanced down at the food he was still eating. When he looked back up, Mark had moved to the doorway and was barking at him to follow. 

 

Stiles glared at Mark's back as he started walking away. Grabbing the rest of his bacon in his tight fist, Stiles followed the insufferable wolf up towards Talia's office, eating as he went. He had only just shoved the rest of his bacon in his mouth when Mark opened the door and none-too-gently 'nudged' Stiles inside. Stiles turned to glower at the bastard and grunted, this wolf was certainly testing his patience. 

 

"Ah Stiles! Come in, sit down." Talia called brightly. Stiles broke his stare-down with Mark in order to slump into the seat on the other side of the desk from Talia. At seeing Stiles still chewing, Talia sent Mark a chiding look. When Talia looked back at him, she did her best to make herself as welcoming and reassuring as possible for the visibly uncomfortable young man. 

 

"How did you sleep, Stiles? Was the room alright for you? Is there anything else you might like?" She asked, still feeling a little skeptical about the boy sleeping in the attic of all places. It couldn't be very comfortable up there. 

 

"Great, actually." Stiles answered honestly after swallowing the food in his mouth. "I've been mostly crashing wherever I could lately, so it was a really nice change. And no, I don't need anything else, really." Stiles answered quickly, knowing that the wolf would get it for him if he asked. 

 

"Good, that's good. . ." She trailed off for a moment, looking at Stiles—like really looking at him—before choosing her next words carefully. "Well, Stiles, I must say . . . you seem like a really good kid—bright, intelligent, 'resourceful,'" She repeated his own words back to him from the meeting with a small quirk of her lips, "And I really think you have a place here, with us. You don't have to make a full commitment yet, but I'd really like you to stay and consider joining my pack. I . . . I can't claim to know what you've been through until now, and I'm not trying to overstep my bounds, but it seems to me like you're going to need more than just a bit of company. You need a pack. 

 

"You need an anchor just as much as any wolf and it will be dangerous for your health to try to go without. I really don't want to push anything on you, especially considering your past--" you have no idea, Stiles thought, "--but I think that you need to find a pack soon for your own body's sake. I will gladly take you in, but if you decide later you want another pack, then I can make arrangements if need be. I wanted to give you more time than this to adjust and maybe come to a decision on your own time, but after discussing it over with my emissary, I think it's best if you decide now whether you will stay with us for more than just a night so that I can officially introduce you to the rest of the pack." 

 

Stiles knew what she was asking, quite easily actually. She was asking him to stay. Not just that, but she wanted him to unofficially join her pack. She wouldn't make him officially join right away, but the preliminary bonds would bind him to the rest of the pack in a way to make it difficult—but not impossible—to break the ties later on without causing permanent damage. It was important to note, though, that the preliminary bonds would also do worlds of good for Stiles' wellbeing and mentality—the next best thing to the permanent bonds of pack. 

 

She had been hesitant in her wording, not wanting to spook him, but the result would be the same no matter how carefully it was put. If Stiles agreed, the chances of him leaving when he saw his objective to save Paige through to the end, would be very small. No matter how hard he tried, Stiles couldn't envision what his life would be like there. This puzzle was already finished, and Stiles really didn't know if he could be remolded to fit in somewhere. Hatred and pain had made his edges so rigid and sharp and jagged. Could he really stay without hurting the others? 

 

His uncertainty must have been plain on his face. 

 

"I know that the others aren't making it very easy for you and it will probably be a bit of an uphill battle from here on out, but they just need time to adjust. That can only happen with time and exposure. I will try to reason with some of the more pig-headed of them," Talia looked purposefully at Mark in the back of the room, who looked quite upset with her inviting Stiles in like this, so easily, "But it will take some effort on your part as well. I won't try to convince you that it's fair, but there's only so much room for logic in the mess of emotion and opinions and preconceptions that is a person's brain. I know it isn't much, but what do you say, Stiles? Will you stay?" 

 

Stiles' shoulders dropped with how heavily he sighed, running a hand through his uncharacteristically long hair in frustration. He was tired of fighting, of trying to convince people he was trustworthy enough to heed his advice, of being looked down on and only ever seen as an outsider. Stiles' head dipped as he caught up with the direction of his own thoughts, knowing that the vicious bubble of anger and frustration in his gut was left over from his past. It came from the pack he had lost. The pack that was too young and too ignorant to know that being human didn't make him an outsider or that he was to be avoided as he could potentially become their weak-spot because he didn't have werewolf strength. 

 

As much as he missed his pack, as true as it was that he had literally given up everything—even his own fucking existence—just to save them, Stiles knew that his old pack had been broken, dysfunctional, and had left him with plenty of scars and still bleeding wounds from their time together. They had been stupid, selfish, shortsighted assholes and it had gotten them all killed. 

 

So maybe he couldn't see himself with the Hale Pack, and maybe they currently saw him as a parasite that had attached itself to the pack, and maybe it would never really ever get better . . . but Stiles could see the facts staring him in the face. He needed them to keep himself alive (and maybe that did make him a bit of a parasite, funny) and they didn't know it, but he had integral information about the future that they would need eventually if they had any hopes of surviving. As much as he would like to believe that all he had to do was stop Paige from dying and that would be enough to not set off the shit-storm headed their way, Stiles didn't trust fate to not come back around and find a way around his attempts and still cause everything to fall apart. 

 

If Stiles really wanted to be sure the Hales survived, that everyone survived, then his best chance was sitting right in front of him. 

 

"I'll stay." Stiles spoke aloud in the disconcertingly quiet room. He lifted his face to look at Talia in time to see relief and hope bloom on her face. 

 

"I'm glad to hear that, Stiles. I really think you'll come to like it here after a while. The others will warm up to you, I'm sure." 'I'm not,' Stiles thought, but made sure it didn't show on his face. "Now, I suppose I should give you a bit of a run-down on how things work here, since every pack is different. As I'm sure you've noticed by now, this is quite a big pack. Most of the wolves live here in the pack house, but there are a few families who have left and got homes of their own in town or even further for whatever reason. 

 

"This house has been in the pack, and my family specifically, for many, many years. With that comes a long line of Hale assets that do well in protecting the pack in another sense. Beyond that, I am the head of my own company—which is quite successful and would be more than enough to provide for a comfortable life for the whole pack. However, quite a few of the adult wolves have taken up jobs of their own. Mostly, the wolves feel the need to provide for the rest of the pack—whether it's necessary or not—so not taking the pack's money makes them feel more comfortable." Talia's lips curled into a fond and slightly playful smile as she thought of something. 

 

"Another reason they get a job is to avoid their duties here. You see, Stiles, as a pack we are not just a family, but a community. We like to be as self-reliant as possible as a community—not only does it strengthen our bonds as a pack, but it also serves to protect us by putting a comfortable distance between us and the unknowing human communities. That is not to say we don't encourage interactions and healthy relationships with humans—we have never had any problems in the past with pack members befriending or even bonding with humans romantically." She assured, as if not wishing to let Stiles misunderstand her convictions. Stiles didn't really know where that had come from but didn't really mind either way. He would understand if they wanted as little to do with humans as possible, considering it was ultimately humans that brought down their entire pack. Stiles waved her off, dismissing the slight uncertainty in her eyes. 

 

"Anyways, like I said, we like to be self-sustaining, so we do our best to work together as a pack and a community to keep everything running smoothly. We grow a lot of our own fruits and vegetables—though there are definitely things we can't grow here and need to buy from the stores—we also hunt for whatever's in season in these woods. We've done a good job of maintaining the deer population in the area so it doesn't become overpopulated. Adding on to that, maintaining the grounds, the gardens, cooking for the pack, running errands, cleaning and doing general maintenance on the pack house, and homeschooling the younger pack members too young still to attend public school, there are many things to be done around here. 

 

"The pups are taught from an early age to maintain their rooms and clean up their own messes when they can. We hope to instill positive and responsible behaviors early on. Those old enough to manage helping out here and there around the house will have their own set of chores—not much since they're still young and in school, just enough to strengthen their bonds to the rest of the pack. Adult wolves who work don't have to do much either since they're gone for a good portion of the day. We have a decent number of adults who stay home in order to help here, but it never seems like enough these days—too eager to go out and get a job so they can avoid the chores." Talia rolled her eyes, exasperated. 

 

"I see, whatever you need help with I'd be fine taking on. I didn’t plan on being a freeloader while here." Stiles nodded his head as he spoke, knowing that now he decided to stay here—official pack or not—he would have to pull his own weight. 

 

"That wasn't what I meant by telling you that, Stiles!" Talia sounded even more exasperated now. "If you wanted to attend school as well, that is something we can certainly arrange. If you've already graduated and you wish to pursue a career then we will support you in any way we can. It's just that whatever you choose, you will probably be expected to help out with dinner once or twice a week. I want you to be aware so that there isn't some sort of misunderstanding with you and the rest of the pack later. If you participate every once in a while with duties, then it will help you in bonding with the pack." Talia clarified. 

 

However, this brought up another problem for Stiles he hadn't wanted to think about too deeply. 

 

His existence had been erased. Stiles Stilinski had never been born. Which meant no birth certificate, no medical history, no social security number, no proof he had ever existed before he came to the past—which was the point. However, this also meant that he couldn't really go to school or get a job without finding someone to forge some documents for him. He wasn't really bothered about school just yet. Maybe he would want to finish school later on, but right now he didn't see himself trying to go back to that environment and trying to get an education when he could barely be around a handful of people. 

 

Hesitantly, Stiles spoke up. Trying to think up something on the spot that had just enough truth to it. 

 

"Actually . . . I don't think I could even if I wanted too." Stiles started, the faintest breath of sheepishness in his usually flat tone as he talked. 

 

"What do you mean?" 

 

"Well, my old pack was pretty . . . of the grid," more like off the timeline, "So I . . . I don't really have a birth certificate. I've nearly completed my education but then my pack . . . I didn't really have time for lessons with all the burials." Stiles trailed off, hoping Talia would fill in any gaps he left with her own assumptions so he didn't have to lie and out himself. 

 

"I-I see." Talia's voice sounded tight. "Your pack, they-- . . . they ran into trouble a lot, it seems." Stiles could her the question gliding under her words. 

 

"You could say that, yes. We weren't a large pack or anything. Just a handful of turned wolves and a few non-wolves and none of us really knew what we were doing. But they were scared and our parents did their best to protect us, but it wasn't really enough." Stiles shared, it was like a hot knife in his gut to speak of this, but if he wanted Talia to trust him, he would have to let go of some of his history. He would have to let her in just a little bit, enough to show her past his stone walls and barbed wire and sharp edges so she could see he had all this defense because he was broken, and not because he was a danger to her pack. 

 

"We were hunted like animals and slaughtered for the sport—the bounties. We didn't have much, but a few of us were just special enough to catch their interests. A banshee, a true Alpha, and a Kitsune. I--" Stiles stared down at his hands in his lap, unable to meet either gaze trained on him in that room. "I was only left alone because I was human and wasn't worth anything to them." His tone was bitter and acidic. 

 

The only sound that trickled through the air was their breathing and the groaning of the floorboards beneath Mark's weight as he shifted back to lean against the wall, head dipped low and fists clenched at his sides. After a few slow breaths, Stiles lifted his chin, face having been wrestled back into a stony mask so he could weather the Alpha's pity without crumbling. 

 

"I'm not really fit for school or work right now. I'll take on any duties you have for me here. I'm strong and good with my hands. I'm pretty good at fixing up cars and making them drivable. My-my mother used to have a garden and I would help her when I was younger so I can help with that too. I can also cook pretty well, organic is sort of my specialty." Stiles' mask cracked just enough for his lips to quirk up on one side in a half smile. Fighting and protecting a pack was something he had to learn after his life was turned upside down the night Scott was bitten, but all the other stuff? Stiles had been cooking, cleaning, and taking care of himself and others his whole life. 

 

He'd always felt it was pretty cliché with being one of the few humans in the pack, but Stiles had 'caregiver' practically in his DNA. Not that he really gave off waves of comfort and nurturing these days, but some things never really left you. 

 

Talia sent him a slightly strained smile, realizing that she couldn't easily fix everything right then. It would take time for Stiles to recuperate and also for her to make arrangements for Stiles to have some proper documentation so he wasn't bound only to the pack for the foreseeable future. 

 

"You mentioned almost finishing your education, does that mean you were still being taught when you . . . left?" Talia asked carefully. Stiles nodded, knowing this was just part of it, of proving he wasn't much of a threat. 

 

"Yeah, I turned seventeen on the 27th of November." Stiles admitted. A week ago. Only a week ago he had been sixteen. At least, that was what the date would imply. In his own time, he'd been seventeen for a few months already. Not very important in the scheme of things, but he couldn’t explain that to Talia and changing his birthday to make his age more accurate would put him at risk of forgetting and slipping up later. 

 

The breath seemed to whoosh out of Talia at his confession. Stiles could already feel her staring at him and seeing her own son, so close in age. She was seeing someone so young but also thinking of everything he'd told her about himself, everything he had lived through—as far as she knew—and knowing that his age did nothing to protect him or stop him from becoming an adult way too soon. Legal adulthood was still about a year away for him, but he already felt too old for his bones. He was almost two years older than Derek and the difference in their experiences and maturity was worlds apart. Stiles was young, but he was not a child, and treating him as such would only damage the feeble trust that had only just begun to form between them. 

 

"If taking on duties here is what you wish to do, then we will gladly accept the help. You can talk to Gloria about assignment later on and she will find a place for you. I would do it myself, but I'm quite busy these days and she would know much better than I what needs help." Stiles nodded, he'll probably seek her out soon, he wasn't good with being idle. 

 

"Is there anything else I need to know?" He asked, mind already straying to how he was going to find and approach this Gloria without getting on this woman's bad side, once this meeting ended. 

 

"Um. . . Oh! Right, it's still about a week and a half away, but every new moon we have a sort of get-together. There's food and drinks and music. It's really just another excuse to bond as a pack and let loose." Talia's tone was conspiratorial in an attempt to lighten the mood a little with talks of festivities. "The full moon is for shifting and celebrating our wolves. The new moon is for celebrating our other form and the link between our two halves. The full moon will involve a run through the preserve in full shift, you can decide to join us during the run or stay here when the time comes. However, the new moon is a gathering that everyone in the pack is expected to attend, even our non-wolf pack members. It will be a show of good will if you are there as well." 

 

Stiles hadn't known that werewolves even celebrated anything on the new moon—since it was the furthest day during the month before and after a full moon and was usually associated with their wolves being at their weakest. He supposed it made sense that they would honor their human sides on this day. In the end, it was all about pack and nurturing their bonds. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles thought he had left the monsters specifically gunning for his life in the time he'd traveled from. That is . . . until he met the wolf named Gloria

 

She was five-foot-three of pure evil and sadism. 

 

Stiles had even put in a bit of effort to be friendly by not outright glaring at the woman when he approached her. Stiles had hardly made it a couple of hours after his meeting with Talia, trying to heed her advice and spend the day relaxing and recovering. However, 'relax' didn't seem to be in Stiles' vocabulary anymore because he physically couldn't relax. He was always tense, always hyperaware, always counting his breaths to ground his mind and not having something to keep him busy only made him more wound up. 

 

So he'd gone looking for the woman in charge of doling out duties for the pack, hoping for a distraction. What he got, was a middle-aged woman who looked at him with such venom he was surprised his skin didn't start to melt away. She was clearly amongst the group of wolves that would rather slit his throat in his sleep than offer him a place to crash. In the end, though, she didn't refuse to give him a task. 

 

Unfortunately, an hour into crouching over a long row of peas with the sun beating down on his aching back completely dismissive of the current season for the rest of the world, Stiles concluded that she hadn't given him something to do out of the kindness of her heart. He'd seen enough around the property and through his windows in the attic to know that duties were something that were done over the length of the day and were often broken with breaks and snacks and time to socialize. 

 

For Stiles, however, he'd been given a list of duties Gloria told him were to be finished by sun down. One glance at Mark's impassive face behind him told him that the man didn't see anything wrong with it and Stiles would be expected to deliver. So, Stiles did what came easily to him these days and stayed quiet. A short nod and he was off to throw himself into the work. 

 

Stiles didn't know anyone well enough to socialize, and as it seemed that Gloria was almost a permanent fixture in the kitchen, he wasn't eager to go searching for lunch when the sun was directly overhead and sweat beaded over his temples as he hauled yet another thick section of a tree trunk over to Mark. Apparently, Mark didn't like being idle either and had moved to the side of the yard where he could chop wood. Stiles brought the wood and Mark cleaved it easily with his axe. 

 

The moment he settled the hunk of wood on top of the wide stump used for wood cutting, Stiles wiped his forehead on the back of his hand and was moving back towards the garden to continue to pull up sprouting raspberry plants next to the thick thorny raspberry bushes. Even Stiles knew how easily the raspberry plant could spread and overtake a garden if not properly maintained. After his mother had passed away and their garden in the back yard no longer had her there to attend to it, Stiles couldn't bring himself to look after it without her. That summer after he stopped tending to it, the small raspberry bush in the corner had completely taken over the little garden and turned into a monstrous, overgrown tangle of bright red berries and vicious thorns. 

 

He and his father had tried to just cut them down and tear out the roots but they always seemed to grow back with a vengeance. They tried everything they could, but there were always one or two wicked little plants that sprouted back up just when they thought it was gone. Eventually, in a fit of part frustration and part raging grief, the sheriff went out back one day with a full bottle of lighter fluid and a box of matches and set the whole patch of soil aflame. 

 

The square section of their yard where his mother's garden had been laid barren of even grass for two years before Stiles came home from school one day with a thick packet full of little seeds. His dad had watched silently as he dumped his backpack on the ground, strode out to the backyard and sprinkled the whole packet over the soil carelessly. He knew there was a better way to plant the seeds that would be more likely to bring up sprouts, but Stiles was beyond caring. His dad watched from the backdoor of the house as he crouched down and plunged his finger into the soil in order to push the seeds deeper into the earth. 

 

Neither of them ever talked about it, but Stiles had tended to the raspberries diligently up until his life became too dangerous and smeared with blood to worry about the bushels in his backyard. 

 

Despite the steadily growing pounding ache between his temples and the slide of sweat down the line of his spine, it felt good to be working with this particular plant again. The work was hard, but it allowed Stiles to let his mind go. 

 

When the sun had set, Stiles finished up his work, took a shower, and ventured downstairs. Gloria and a few others were in the kitchen preparing supper. When Stiles entered, she gave him an unimpressed look before directing him towards a pile of potatoes to begin peeling. Stiles could feel eyes on him, both curious and wary, as he carefully but efficiently sliced away the rough brown peels. That seemed to be the general consensus around Stiles, it seemed. Curious, but wary

 

Soon, Stiles' silence while the others talked loud and freely seemed to slowly fade him from notice. People stepped around him without a word and didn't even really seem to see him. Stiles was okay with it. There was safety in going unnoticed. He didn't have to spend as much time with his head lowered to avoid other's gazes, he didn't have to worry about someone trying to pull him into conversation. 

 

His peace was interrupted, however, when the front door opened in the distance and Stiles listened as quick steps seemed to make a straight path towards the kitchen. Stiles looked up just as the door swung open and in walked the eager over-grown pup that seemed to be the exception to those who were wary of Stiles. Stiles looked back down at the task at hand as Derek beamed at him and seemed to automatically gravitate towards Stiles—oblivious to the odd looks he was getting from the other residents in the kitchen. 

 

"Hey Stiles! What are you doing?" Came his chipper inquiry, drifting closer than was polite and leaning over Stiles' shoulder as the older teen lifted a potato he was peeling in place of answering. "Oh, let me help you." Derek disappeared for a moment, and in the next second he was back at Stiles' side with a knife of his own and reaching for an unpeeled potato. 

 

Stiles felt the heat of Derek's arm pressed against his and he shifted away to reclaim at least a modicum of space between them again. Derek didn't show that he'd noticed the movement, but he did pipe up to fill the silence between them. 

 

"I would have been back earlier but I had practice today so I had to stay a little later. I play basketball, by the way. Do you play any sports? I like basketball well enough, but most of the guys on the team all have dreams of being a player forever and making it big. I don't know . . . I just don't really see myself doing it after I graduate." Derek shrugged and continued to chatter as he helped Stiles. At first, Stiles was exasperated by his behavior, but eventually he begun to settle into the easy flow of Derek's rambling. 

 

When Stiles glanced over while Derek lamented about his favorite movies, he had to clamp his teeth down on his lips to keep from snorting at the small pile of potatoes Derek had been working at. Instead of peeling, the big oaf seemed to have been hacking away the skin in big chunks, leaving small and crudely cut potatoes no bigger than a child's fist or a golf ball. 

 

Stiles said nothing and kept working. 

 

Derek stumbled over his words when he looked at the shorter male next to him and saw the corners of his full, rose pink lips curling up with a will of their own. The human's face seemed to transform with the small smile, there was a trickle of sparkling humor in his rich honey-brown eyes. He looked younger and the jaded cold front of his demeanor melted away for only a moment but it was enough to short circuit Derek's mind. 

 

His silence drew the attention of the subject of his distraction and Derek quickly looked away, swallowing thickly as he tried to remember the thread of words he'd let slip away. Derek's heart raced like the frantic wings of a hummingbird as he felt Stiles' eyes on him, picking him apart. Giving up trying to pick up where he left off, Derek just shook his head and started up a whole different conversation—not that he thought Stiles was paying too much attention to what he was saying. 

 

Stiles eventually looked away and Derek didn't feel quite like he was giving a speech in front of a stadium of people in his underwear anymore. He'd only met the other boy that morning, and he was pretty sure they were the same age—Stiles' words be damned—but something about him was just so . . . magnetic

 

If Stiles was someone in his school, he was sure that Stiles would be one of those people that others were just pulled towards. He doesn't talk much, but he'd probably be really popular. There were two distinct conflicting mindsets inside of Derek and he didn't know which one was right. On one hand, Derek thought that Stiles was mature and cool, he felt like Stiles was someone that was definitely too interesting to be hanging out with Derek. On the other hand, a big part of Derek—and he had a growing suspicion that it was mostly coming from his wolf—saw Stiles as someone Derek needed to protect. 

 

Well, no that wasn't all of it. . . It was more like, he wanted to protect Stiles. It wasn't that he felt Stiles was in danger and needed a shield from it. Honestly, it felt as though Derek wanted to 'protect' him from having to peel potatoes alone, or being left in silence while doing it, or getting a scratch, or getting hungry. Derek had always hated being saddled with the pups and having to watch them when everyone else was busy but for the first time in his life, Derek wanted to be a caregiver. 

 

He wanted to take care of Stiles. 

 

But he didn't really know why. His wolf had never been so insistent and pushy with him before. He'd have to ask someone if there was something wrong with him, maybe Laura or his mom. He'd never wanted to be friends with someone so badly. But . . . some of his instincts were confusing and didn't seem like something you'd do for a friend. Friends didn't need your softest sweater. Friends didn't need to smell like you. Friends didn't need you to make them food or—Derek felt his face heating in embarrassment and the thought came unbidden—or for you to feed them to make sure they were eating enough. Derek's face scrunched in dismay, his wolf was acting really weird today. 

 

He needed to ask someone soon before he did something to humiliate himself in front of Stiles. 

 

Derek continued to help Stiles with dinner until they'd done all they could and were eventually shooed out by Gloria so she and the others could finish cooking. Stiles followed Derek into the dining room and was momentarily overwhelmed when he entered and found nearly every seat at the very long table to be filled. Wolves of all ages were sat around the table, talking to each other. 

 

Stiles was physically pulled from his stalling mind by Derek's large hand encircling his wrist and gently guiding him towards one end of the table. Towards the further end where Talia sat at the head, with a dark-haired man to her right that looked a lot like Derek and must be his father. Derek sat down next to the man and pulled Stiles down in the seat next to his. To Talia's left sat a girl that was probably the same age as Stiles and looked more like Talia than she did the man who was probably her father. Laura. 

 

The person sitting next to Laura was none other than Cora. There was no mistaking her, she may be nine years old and a tiny little thing, but her cold glare seemed to have been with her since birth. If anything, Derek's little sister must have softened as she grew up because the daggers coming from her eyes and boring into her plate could cleave right through someone. 

 

"Stiles, I'm glad to see you'll be joining us this evening." Talia's words and tone were pleasant, welcoming. Even as Stiles felt the heated burn of glowers against his profile. Stiles dipped his head in place of speaking. Just then, several wolves from the kitchen walked in with different dishes and started setting them on the table. The buzzing of voices speaking all at once dimmed down into a low hum as the rest of the food was brought out. 

 

However, even when it was all set down and the last person had taken their seat, nobody reached for it. As custom, the Alpha took food first. Not because they were so much more important and superior to everyone else in the pack, but because it was an offering and show of respect from the pack to the Alpha and it was courteous of the Alpha to accept the gift for what it was. 

 

Instead of doing so, though, Talia stood from her seat and the action called for everyone's attention. 

 

"Before we eat, I'd like to make a brief announcement while we're gathered here. As I'm sure some of you know or have heard, we have someone new among us." Talia smiled at Stiles and he felt almost everyone's eyes at once. "Stiles will be staying with us from now on. I would like everyone to welcome Stiles and help him in whatever way they can. I would like you to think of and treat Stiles as pack." Her tone was light but her words were certainly firm. Her pack's attitude towards the newcomer had not gone unnoticed by her. She couldn't make them accept the boy, but she would nudge them in the right direction, because Stiles certainly didn't deserve any hostility. 

 

"But he's not." The person who'd spoken was not one Stiles recognize in his short time there. He sat closer to the other end of the table and he'd spoken the words without malice, just plain confusion and bluntness. He didn't understand why Stiles was there, he could tell. Stiles tried not to let the statement linger in his thoughts for too long, otherwise his twisted mind would dwell on it later and try to use it to poison his blood and pick away at the edges of his brain. 

 

To his surprise, it was Derek that replied, before his mother could do it herself. 

 

"And, what? You think that him not necessarily being pack means he doesn't deserve your manners?" Stiles turned to look at the teen next to him, blinking in barely concealed shock. Derek had transformed from the eager and clumsy pup into a man, with cold eyes and a brittle seriousness to his expression and posture. It wasn't something he was used to using—Stiles could tell—but it was there for him when circumstances called for it. Derek's jaw clenched and his brows furrowed as he stared down the man who'd spoken. Derek opened his mouth again, likely to continue to scold the older wolf. 

 

Stiles reached over under the table and grabbed Derek's fist where it was currently fisted around the material of his jeans. Stiles' grip was tight and immediately drew Derek's attention to him. He gave a nearly imperceptible shake of his head as he held Derek's gaze and tried to convey his thoughts to the younger man. 'Let it go.' The shallow trench between his strong dark brows deepened for a moment, Stiles squeezed his hand and the tension in him seemed to fall like a curtain and Derek's fist loosened before his claws made an appearance and cut through his jeans. 

 

Stiles allowed his hold on Derek's hand to linger for a while to make sure the wolf wasn't going to do something stupid—like start a fight with an older wolf over something so stupid—before letting go and returning his focus to the Alpha. Talia looked away right when he did and Stiles felt something clench in his gut as he realized his actions. Stiles knew how he acted towards others, throwing up a general unhospitable atmosphere around him to try to keep people from wandering too close. He'd only been here for a day and half, so him comforting Derek in any way, even if it was so small and it had just been an instinct, would be out of character for sure. 

 

Stiles tried not to dwell on his reaction to Derek's turmoil and frustration. 

 

"Derek is right." Talia finally spoke up, breaking the tense silence that followed her son's surprising outburst. "Most of you are adults, but you're acting like pups. You know better than to act so petulantly just because you don't like something. I seriously hope that this is not how you act around the humans in town. Besides, perhaps Stiles won't become a part of this pack, perhaps he will. If he decides he would like to join us, then you will have to accept him, just as you have accepted those among us who hadn't been born into this pack—as quite a few of you weren't." Talia stated, the heavy notes of reprimand in her words. 

 

Talia sat down and after a moment of looking at her pack, she reached out and took her share of food. Conversation was slow to pick back up after that, but eventually it did and Stiles felt like he could breathe without the attention on him any longer. 

 

Derek wasn't as bright and carefree as he'd been before, seeming to be distracted by something, quiet as he apparently moved on autopilot and put together a plate for Stiles before getting himself food. Stiles felt a little confused and oddly embarrassed by the action, but didn't say anything in case he brought attention to it by doing so. 

 

As they ate, Talia introduced Stiles to her husband, Frank. He was a soft-spoken wolf that apparently spent a lot of his time tending to an antique shop in town. Just by watching them, Stiles could tell the pair were mates and had been for a long time. It was in their very movements. The way they seemed to flow around each other without even looking, talking about their days but never sparing a word to things like passing the salt or a dish—they just understood. 

 

Stiles was introduced to Laura next. She was apparently a senior at Beacon Hills High. Instead of the mature Alpha he'd heard stories about from Derek, telling him about how she'd taken care of him and supported them both when they moved to New York after the fire, this Laura was just another teenager, a high school Senior. The few moments she spared to look at Stiles, she made it clear with a single glance that she was unimpressed and underwhelmed by him. 

 

After the slightly tense situation with the Alpha, everyone else at the table seemed to finally keep their prying eyes to themselves. Only one wolf seemed to have enough nerve to stare unabashedly at Stiles. 

 

Stiles looked up from the food on his plate to look back at Cora, wondering if the little wolf would look away if she knew she'd been caught. No dice. She just continued to blindly spear food on her fork and lift it to her mouth as she watched him, hardly blinking. 

 

With the girl at the forefront of his mind, Stiles realized that he and Cora had been roughly the same age back in his time. Which meant, if Stiles hadn't come back, there would have been a nine-year-old Stiles running around out there, being a terror to his parents. The fire had probably happened before Cora was old enough to control the shift, so it was unlikely that his past-self had gone to school with and met Cora before she returned from Mexico. 

 

That thought was oddly soothing to Stiles. It was strange knowing that his entire past, his history, every past interaction would now only exist in his memories. Not having yet another tie to remind him of where he'd been removed—erased—was a burden off his mind. 

 

The staring match with Cora continued through the meal. 

 

When dinner ended, Stiles was only mildly surprised when Derek stuck close to his side and walked with him the short distance to the door which held the stairs to the attic. Derek's room was actually in one of the additions to the house, but he seemed intent on following Stiles as far as he allowed. Derek didn't look too happy when he realized where Stiles' new room was, but he was dismissing the wolf with a curt 'night' before he could complain. 

 

Mark was already settling into the chair just outside the door—his 'post'—when Stiles began the short ascent. 

 

Stiles sighed with a mix between relief and exhaustion as he toed his shoes off and shuffled towards the bed. In the uninsulated attic with seemingly too many windows, Stiles could hear the roaring of the wind beyond the wood planks, protective sealant, and dark shingles. Old glass window panes groaned in their bare wooden frames, humming with the gales. Stiles stared up at the thick support beams in the darkened room, looking like the brittle rib bones of an enormous beast and he was lying in its belly. If the wind blew any harder, Stiles wondered if the ceiling would begin to cave and bow in some grim imitation of breathing. 

 

Stiles closed his eyes and imagined that with the cold breath he drew into his body, that flesh and muscle over his ribcage creaked and groaned like warped old wood and little plumes of dust rained down inside his lungs. Stiles dropped off into sleep while listening to the low gusts brushing against the sides of the house like a living creature calling for attention. 

 

                    

 

". . . We're sorry, but the caller you are trying to reach is not--" 

 

"Dammit!" He through phone into the passenger seat and heard it clatter against the door before falling between the seats and out of Stiles' reach. The road in front of him blurred as his eyes burned, along with his chest. Stiles clenched his teeth hard enough to make his jaw ache and gripped the steering wheel so hard pain flared in his fingers. 

 

The streets around him became hazy. He couldn't think. If he thought, he would panic. Headlights flashed over his face and momentarily blinded him. The screech of tires echoed in his wake but he couldn't stop. He pressed down harder on the gas pedal. The engine roared louder in protest. His bones were rattling in his skin. His eyes were wet. He pushed the pedal further. 

 

He had to make it. 

 

He couldn't be late. 

 

He can't leave him here alone! 

 

Almost there. 

 

Just hold on. Just hold on. Just hold on. Just hold on. Just hold on. Just ho-- 

 

Stiles saw the cruiser. He slammed on the breaks. The door of the cruiser was thrown open, the engine running. Stiles all but fell out of the jeep. His ears were ringing as he stared at the empty driver seat and stumbled forward. 

 

. . . hold . . . on. . . 

 

He turned his burning gaze up towards the cheap motel before him. Everything was bathed in the gruesome neon red light of the motel's sign high above him. He moved around the front of the cruiser. He needed to go inside. He needed to find him. He had to stop him from-- 

 

Not five feet from the cruiser. Lit by the sickly crimson glow. Facedown on the rough and dirty pavement. Haloed by the stained, slick red ground beneath him. Looking too small. Too still. Too human. Too   notmov ingnotmovingnotmoving  not breathing. Not breathing. . . 

 

". . . dad? . . ." 

 

He sounded like a child. He sounded scared. He sounded lost. 

 

He  is  lost. He is  broken. . .  

 

                     

 

Stiles' eyes slid open with a pained, stuttering sound from chapped lips. His body was curled tightly on his side. His face was wet and sore with tears. He was trembling with bone-achingly deep chill. But none of it could distract him from the fresh, crushing despair and grief that had settled over his vulnerable form like stones. 

 

It was a familiar scene to him, but the worst part was how long it took him to remember, how long it took him to realize that whatever he'd dreamt had not just happened as his distressed brained seemed to believe. It took all too long to realize that he'd lived through it, grieved over it, and survived it. It took too long to repack away all of these painful shards of memories and ground himself back in the present. 

 

It used to take much longer. Hours of him curled up on Deaton's couch, fighting his way through a haze of panic as the other tried to pull him through it and remind him that it was over and there was nothing he could do. Now, it took roughly ten minutes to regain control over his mind and slowly begin the process of cleaning up the mess his dreams had left behind. 

 

As Stiles slowly regained awareness, though, something out of place caught his attention and made him push aside his own version of 'damage-control' to figure out what was going on. He pushed his body up from the bed on one tremulous arm and strained his ears in the dark room. 

 

There. 

 

Stiles slid from his bed and moved on practiced, silent feet over towards the railing where the stairs started and stopped to listen. Down the stairs and just on the other side of the door, Stiles could hear the muffled but distinct sound of distressed whining that was undoubtedly inhuman. Grumbling in low, hushed tones over the whine was Mark's familiar drawl. There was the light scratch of claws on the door and Mark's voice picked up just enough for Stiles to make out his words. 

 

"Go back to bed, pup, now. This is your last warning, Derek. I'm not letting you in no matter how much you complain. Go back to your room before I drag you back by your scruff. Go. Now." Mark's tone brokered no room for argument and the wolf on the other side of his door gave one last pained whine before he finally heard the sound of heavy footfalls and the light tapping of claws on the floor boards as the wolf—Derek—slowly walked away. 

 

Stiles blinked in the darkness and tried to process what he'd just heard. Derek was at his door in the middle of the night, trying to get in, and fully shifted at that! But . . . why?! 

 

Stiles shook his head and quietly wandered back over to his vacated bed. His mind was still too mangled to make any odds or ends of these facts. Stiles curled back up under his blankets, unsure of whether or not he'd be able to get any more sleep but knowing that the night's events would only be safe to pick apart in the pale light of morning. 

 

Chapter Text

 

The week following Stiles' sudden arrival at the Hale residence was a draining but otherwise a non-traumatic experience. Stiles even fell into a bit of a routine. He'd wake up, go downstairs to eat breakfast while Derek seemed to be running on solar power and a force to be reckoned with in the mornings—nothing but 100-watt smiles a seemingly never-ending number of topics to discuss. Derek would sit and eat and talk at Stiles until the very last moment possible before he was being ushered—dragged—off to school. 

 

Then, Stiles would find Gloria to receive his list of duties for the day, and he'd dive into work. It seemed that Stiles did a little bit of everything. Sometimes it was working in the garden, or cleaning dishes, or replacing the bathroom door knob when a younger wolf got a little too riled up in the morning and broke it off. He'd cleaned, scrubbed, vacuumed, painted, fixed, and about a hundred more verbs. Whatever needed attention, he was put on the job. 

 

There were exceptions, of course. He wasn't given any jobs that put him in proximity with the pups. He wasn't sent out on errands like the others. He didn't do anything in the kitchen—around the food—without multiple sets of eyes to watch him. And he was never left unsupervised. Talia and Derek's little talk of manners and respect didn't seem to have earned him an inch with the rest of the pack. 

 

The only thing that seemed to have changed, was that instead of looking at Stiles like he was a rabid animal snapping his jaws at their children, many of them seemed decided on—if he was going to be an unofficial member of the pack—him being in the lowest point in the hierarchy possible. Essentially, they either pretended he didn't exist or treated him like a burden on the pack. The problem was . . . Stiles wasn't someone who cared about stepping on toes or submitting to make things easier on everyone. Stiles knew who he was and what he could do, he was assured in his own abilities and he was too much of a fighter to just bare his throat and take it. 

 

Stiles had fought every second during his time with his old pack to prove himself to the others so they would listen to him. His old pack might not have had a clear hierarchy, but Stiles had firmly placed himself as Scott's second when there'd been those two nebulous packs in Beacon Hills. The others seemed to automatically put Stiles at the bottom because of his strength—or lack thereof—and he'd had to practically fight the others into submission to get them to see differently and stop wasting time and energy on attempting to keep him away because they didn't think he had any business sticking his nose in it. 

 

Stiles held no illusions here about him being any Alpha's second in the Hale Pack, but he knew without a doubt that he was not at the very bottom either. There were fighters in the pack, hunters, natural protectors, and leaders but there were also a lot of people who weren't fighters or leaders. If Stiles really had a place in the pack, then it certainly wasn't near the bottom. 

 

Stiles knew this, and because of it, he continued to hold himself in the same manner as he did when he first arrived. Which was, he submitted to no one except the Alpha. He listened to others, sure, he followed directions and took on his duties without complaint, but that had nothing to do with status. Deference came in little gestures, ones that no one really thought about unless they were done out of place, or not done at all. 

 

Which meant that, over the course of the week, he'd aggravated more than a few wolves. Especially Mark, whose main job currently was to hover around Stiles every moment of the day and be within hearing distance at night. Stiles knew that Mark was someone whose wolf was much closer to the surface at any given time than most weres. So, him not behaving below Mark was winding the man tighter and tighter each day. Soon, he would burst. 

 

Sometime during the day, Stiles would take a break to eat lunch in the middle of his duties. He always tried to do it at a time when the others weren't eating—making food for himself and eating quietly—because lunch was the time that the younger wolves were the least supervised and would be in close quarters with Stiles and his proximity always put their chaperones on edge (quite the understatement). 

 

After that, Stiles would continue to work either until dinner, or until Derek came home earlier on the days he didn't have practice. The first time Derek had come home straight from school and found Stiles half-stuffed under the hood of a pack member's car—Gloria had caught wind of Stiles knowing a couple of things about cars, and how could he not with how many years he kept his jeep running without racking up one hell of a bill at the auto-body shop, and she'd set him loose on a few of the older and cheaper cars that just needed a little work done here and there—Derek had flown into a panic. 

 

First, Derek had stated he would talk to Gloria about having him do anything dangerous or overtly strenuous, but Stiles had been able to keep the other from storming into the house on a mission to yell the woman's ear off. Then, he'd insisted Stiles cut down on the duties he took on—he reasoned that if Stiles took his time to do them and didn't finish them all in a day Gloria would stop giving him so much—Stiles had spoken more to Derek than he had since coming to this time, scolding the wolf about responsibility and skiving duties to the pack. Derek had been thoroughly chided when he was done. 

 

Finally, they settled on Stiles occasionally allowing Derek to assist him with duties when he was available—Stiles only agreeing because Derek admitted to usually neglecting his own duties to the point that most of the others had stopped trying to get his help. This left the time from when Derek came back from school to the moment they were called for dinner, for Derek to not leave the spark's side for a second. 

 

Dinner was something that everyone in the house was expected to attend unless they absolutely couldn't for some reason. There'd even been a few nights when pack members who lived off Hale property would drop in for dinner and catch up with everyone. Stiles didn't really get any more social during dinner over the week. He always sat next to Derek—not particularly his choice—he always politely listened to the Hale family unit talk during the meal which sometimes included him, and at some point during dinner, he always had a sort of stare-down with Cora. 

 

After dinner, Stiles would return to his room without delay. Mostly, because he had no reason to linger outside of his room after eating, and it was the only place where he could be without risking running into someone. However, Stiles also disappeared up into the attic because Derek seemed to have some serious unresolved curiosity directed towards Stiles—he was a mystery to the excitable young wolf and he could understand his need to learn more, not that he appreciated it—and if he didn't practically force the other away, Stiles would possibly be the cause of the boy's grades taking a dive considering all the time before dinner was spent pointlessly around Stiles instead of studying. 

 

He hoped that Derek's interest in the novelty that Stiles is would fade soon because he was certain that more than a few people inside the house would be ready with their torches and pitchforks if they caught the slightest inkling that Stiles was a bad influence on Derek. 

 

Unfortunately, the day didn't end there. It seemed that Stiles' avid reluctance to sleep had returned, but the daily work exhausted his body enough to force him to sleep anyways. Which meant more dreaming—more nightmares. Stiles knew he wasn't quiet and his fitful nights had not gone unnoticed by those below him. Talia had pulled him aside after his second night in the Hale house in order to ask if he would like her to get him some herbal teas from Deaton to help him with his dreams. 

 

However, Stiles knew the extent of what Deaton had to offer and the only thing strong enough to get him peacefully through the night was something only really used out of necessity and could do long-term damage to his body if he used it too often. Everything else would only serve to put him to sleep and make it harder for him to awaken during the night—it was never strong enough to drown out the nightmares. He politely declined her offer. 

 

Mark never said anything about what he heard at night from his 'post,' but Stiles had seen his eyes linger a second too long on the dark rings under his eyes on the nights he couldn't force himself back to sleep after rousing. 

 

Everyone else was too far away in the well sound-proofed house to hear his nightly struggles. All except Derek, that is. Somehow, the wolf never failed to show up at Stiles' door right when things got to be too . . . much. He also always came in full shift and refused to leave—despite all of Mark's hissed threats—until Stiles was awake and starting to calm down again. Stiles never saw him, just heard his whines and occasional growls directed at Mark, as well as the sharp scraping and dull thud of a clawed paw hitting the door as he tried to get past it. 

 

Stiles never brought it up to him in the light of day, and Derek was either unaware of what was happening, or had a reason of his own to keep quiet about his nightly visits to Stiles' door. Stiles didn't know what to make of his actions, but if Derek was somehow able to hear Stiles at night he hoped that he didn't try to ask Stiles about it any time soon. 

 

Soon enough it was Friday. The atmosphere in the pack house was subtly different when he got up that morning. People seemed a little lethargic, but mostly it was overshadowed by their excitement. The new moon. Talia had said that they would be having a gathering later and everyone in the pack who could attend was expected to—and by extension, that included Stiles. 

 

Stiles really had no clue what to expect, since his old pack had never done anything like that. The closest they had ever come was little get-togethers in Derek's loft when they weren't desperately trying to save people and themselves at the same time. Just cheap delivery pizza and a movie most of them had already seen but didn't say so. 

 

Everyone went about their normal routines, though, so Stiles put the new moon out of his mind as he went about his own duties. He'd even been relatively successful for most of the day. As the sun set, Stiles was in his room in the attic, working on a few things he'd been fixing up. He hadn't even noticed the darkening sky until there was a soft knock on the door at the bottom of the stairs and he looked up from his desk only to then notice that his room was completely dark except for the lamp on his desk bathing his work in a halo of warm light. 

 

Stiles got up to answer the door and felt his eyebrows twitch up in surprise when he was faced with the Alpha of the Hale back smiling at him from his doorway. 

 

"I figured the best way to ensure that you actually attended the celebration was to come retrieve you myself." Her smile widened. "Otherwise you probably would have worked right through it." She added, a knowing look in her dark brown eyes. 

 

Stiles, though, didn't even look sheepish at her teasing. It was true, he probably wouldn't have put his work down until very late into the night. Even though he didn't particularly want to be around so many people, his absence wouldn't have even been intentional. He just sort of lost himself in whatever task he was focused on. Stiles dipped his head in his usual form of acknowledgement. 

 

Talia stepped aside and motioned for him to walk with her. It was then that Stiles realized his shadow was missing. The Alpha noticed his curious searching gaze as they began to walk. 

 

"I gave him the night off. Tonight is for relaxing and joy, you could both use the break." Stiles knew Mark well enough now to know that her decision was more for Stiles' benefit than Mark's. He could envision the fight that wolf would have put up when Talia suggested he give Stiles the night. 

 

"My apologies for that, by the way." Talia broke in after a stretch of silence. When Stiles turned to her, confused, he spotted a flicker of frustration and disappointment in the Alpha. "I didn't realize he would be so stubborn. I wouldn't have let him watch over you if I had known he would behave this way." Stiles contemplated her words for a moment as they moved through the house to the back door. 

 

Once they were surrounded by the cold winter night, Stiles finally spoke. 

 

"He relies on his wolf to guide him, and his wolf doesn't trust me. I'm not pack, I don't share my past, and I don't submit. I'm unfamiliar, unknown, and unpredictable. It makes sense why he doesn't trust me. He isn't the first wolf I've met that relies on his instincts because sometimes his mind isn't very reliable. Give it time, eventually his need for clarification will override his human rationale and he will settle his confusion the way his wolf needs to." Stiles spoke quietly, turning to give Talia a look as they approached the tree line behind their wide backyard. 

 

Talia was quick to infer his meaning. 

 

"You mean fighting." It was a statement, but Stiles gave a single nod anyways. 

 

"I ask that when it comes to that, you only step in if it is absolutely necessary, otherwise nothing will be resolved. I have fought with werewolves before and am capable of handling myself. Mark and I . . ." Stiles paused a moment to gather his thoughts as he looked around at the dark forest around him. He didn't usually speak so much, but some things needed to be said, and he didn't know how much time he had until they reached the others. 

 

"We are very similar in many ways. I might not be a werewolf, but let's just say I have my own instincts to wrestle with, and I might need this just as much as him." He finished, hoping Talia would understand and that he didn't need protection from this and keeping him and Mark from potentially fighting in the future was not necessarily what was best for him. 

 

Eventually, Talia sighed. 

 

"You're very wise Stiles—too wise for your age—and that can be a bit frustrating at times. It can be very difficult to know how to act around you, to know when to step in and when to step aside." Talia said, and before Stiles could formulate a response, they heard the loud murmur of voices and the warm glow of firelight filtering through the trees. 

 

Soon they were stepping into a clearing full of people and Stiles got his first real indication the size of the hale pack. There were nearly fifty wolves in the clearing. The only explanation Stiles could think of, was that the fire that wiped out the Hale pack had either involved far more people than he originally thought, or the fire had been the main attack and the hunters behind it had gone out and wiped out the rest of the pack in town while the authorities and emergency services were distracted with the fire. It was a morbid and horrifying thought, but not one that really surprised him. 

 

At the center of the clearing was one of the biggest bonfires Stiles had ever seen in person. Settled into a pit and surrounded by a ring of stones to contain it. Around the clearing, there were also many thick logs settled around the fire to serve as seats. Many had been stripped of their bark and even cut and sanded down on the top to act more as a bench. With so many people and the roaring fire, the winter night didn't really settle in the clearing, chased away by warmth and laughter and the flash of white teeth from grins so wide they looked almost like they hurt. 

 

The air was thick with anticipation, sweet with uninhibited mirth, and alive with the soft undercut of smoke from the fire. It curled on his tongue like a rich red wine and painted his skin in the buzzing warmth of the flames. Stiles only had a few spare moments to take everything in before all eyes turned towards him—or more accurately, the Alpha standing next him. Stiles didn't stop like Talia did as she faced her pack, instead he kept moving and slipped off to the side, curbing the edges of the crowd and slipping away from notice. 

 

Stiles stood back and only half paid attention to Talia's rousing speech about honoring the new moon, their human forms, and each other. As she spoke, Stiles quietly scanned the mass of people for familiar faces. His eyes found Mark easily, since the man stood tall over everyone else and took up so much space with his formidable presence alone. He was stood on the other side of the clearing, so Stiles made note not to venture too far to that area. 

 

He continued to search faces, not really thinking about the fact that he was looking for the young wolf who occupied so much of his time. Yet, Stiles still didn't spot Derek and figured he hadn't arrived yet. He found Deaton, on the outskirts as well, but his attention was solely occupied by a woman with olive toned skin and a mass of thick, gleaming dark curls and ringlets and he knew that this was the woman Deaton had mentioned the day he'd left his own time, the one he'd cared about so much. 

 

Soon, Talia's speech ended with a chorus of cheers, claps, and laughs. The pack erupted back into conversation and music started up near the fire. Stiles caught glimpses through the gaps between bodies of a few people sat closest to the fire with guitars and a few other instruments that filled the night with beautiful and enchanting music. 

 

As festivities continued, people spread out in the large clearing, a group of young pups chasing each other in the tall grass in the field next to the clearing, a mix of play-growls and peals of laughter trailing after them. A table was set up off to the side, full of food and drink—both alcoholic and not, the booze undoubtedly mixed with just enough benign aconite to affect the wolves. 

 

Stiles acquired an aconite-free beverage for himself and found a seat off to the side. He allowed himself to be immersed in the enthralling mood of the evening as he sipped at his sweet drink that filled his gut with a slowly growing warmth. The wolf in charge of the food and drinks didn't even think twice about handing Stiles his drink, but Stiles wasn't complaining. The only ones who really knew his age were Mark and Talia, for everyone else, it was just conjecture and he didn't give off the aura of someone innocent and underage, he supposed. 

 

Stiles was busy watching a shower of sparks shoot up into the air from the flames, drift in suspension for a moment, and then wink out in the darkness. He was surprised when the music changed and picked up into something more intense and focused. Stiles looked over and watch the ones playing don matching grins as their fingers quickened and strummed with purpose, pulling a few peoples' attention. Intrigued, Stiles watched as several wolves made noises of excitement and rushed over to the bonfire. 

 

And then they began to dance. 

 

It wasn't anything coordinated or practiced, just the need to move and revel in the moment. They spun, swayed, jumped, laughed, and beamed like they were a part of the night. They let themselves go, he could even see that a few were barefoot or had shed jackets and sweaters. Stiles had never seen anything quite like it. 

 

Everything was so . . . visceral, alive, and heady. The music was a heartbeat thrumming through everyone, the flickering flames and invitation. Stiles found himself pulled in. 

 

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, just taking it all in, but Stiles found himself lifting his cup for another drink only to realize it was empty. His attention was pulled away from the contents of his cup when his senses seemed to light up and a warm presence occupied the forefront of his mind. He looked up and his eyes immediately moved towards the area where he and Talia had entered the clearing and his gaze locked with a familiar pale green. 

 

Stiles could only sit there and watch as Derek made a path straight towards him. The wolf loomed over him as he approached, blocking out the light of the fire before settling down next to him on the log. Derek sat close enough that their arms brushed and the knees bumped as Derek got comfortable. 

 

"You actually came." Derek sounded both surprised and pleased, it caused the corners of Stiles' mouth to curl so he turned away to look at the fire instead. 

 

"Your mother can be very persuasive when she shows up at your bedroom door to escort you." Stiles deadpanned, a lilt of amusement in his tone pulling a pleasant-sounding rumble of laughter from Derek. 

 

"Well, I would have gladly done it instead, but I was held up at school because a couple friends where being idiots in class today and I somehow got mixed up in their shit when they were throwing around detentions." Derek admitted sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck and if Stiles turned to look at the other's face he didn't doubt he'd see a light stain of pink on his cheeks. 

 

Younger Derek seemed to blush an awful lot. It contrasted harshly with the Derek Stiles had known in his own time, but Stiles knew exactly why he seemed so different from this Derek, and the reasons just hung lead weights from his ribs. Being here, in this time, Stiles found himself often wishing he'd lost his memory when he traveled back. He'd wish that he could come into the Hale Pack as a clean slate and not have the burden of the future plaguing his mind. 

 

"I doubt your Alpha will see it that way when she finds out." Stiles' tone was serious, but his words were playful and teasing. Derek sucked in a breath and he stiffened next to Stiles. Finally, Stiles looked over and found the other's eyes wide and fearful as something played out in his mind and caused Derek to shudder. Stiles snorted, surprising both Derek and himself, he tried to cough to cover up his own shock. Stiles blamed whatever had been in his drink. Derek seemed thoroughly distracted from his previous worries as he leaned closer to Stiles and tried to get him to laugh again with a few horrible jokes that only made him send the wolf a pained look. 

 

They continued to talk—sparsely on Stiles' end—and take in their surroundings as the night grew more relaxed and free. At some point, Derek started pointing people out to him and explaining who they were, what they did, and any ridiculous gossip he'd picked up from his mouthy older sister. Stiles would admit—even if it was just to himself—that he enjoyed listening to Derek talk. 

 

Not only was there something about his voice that was very soothing to listen to, but the younger man never seemed to run out of things to say. Derek's sense of humor was a little cheesy and silly at times, but sometimes it cracked like a whip and could be both brilliant and dark—it struck Stiles and caught him off guard and made him want to laugh loud and without reservation. It made him think sometimes, that perhaps it was more than just Stiles' need to preserve Derek's innocence that drove him to allow the other's company, but maybe he was actually, sort of fond of the kid. 

 

The blaze of the bonfire had hushed into a calmer state, dimming the light of the clearing almost by half. The younger wolves had already been brought back home for bed, leaving the adults and a few teens left in the clearing. Things were more subdued, but the adults were a little more carefree and more bottles of strong liquids were being cracked open. 

 

The settling of the fire also meant the cold had seeped back into the clearing, and with what little Stiles had drank earlier to warm his belly having long since faded, Stiles found himself almost wishing he had not picked a seat so far from the fire. Derek had just finished telling Stiles about the first time he'd stayed late for a new moon gathering and had watched his uncle on his father's side—Uncle Jerry—nearly faceplant right into the food table after too many drinks. The funny story left the pair feeling light and settled as a comfortable silence draped over them. 

 

A particularly frigid gust of wind suddenly hit Stiles back, lifting the loose fabric of his long-sleeved shirt and sliding up his bare back like ice water. Stiles inhaled sharply and couldn't contain the full-body shiver that trembled through him, catching Derek's attention immediately. 

 

"Cold?" Derek asked, but before Stiles could tell him he was fine, the wolf was already unzipping his dark hoody, shrugging it off of his broad frame, and pushing it into Stiles' arms. Stiles opened his mouth to protest that he didn't need it, but his fingers were already curling into the impossibly warm fabric in his grasp. He supposed Derek being a wolf meant that he wasn't as susceptible to the weather as Stiles was. Not wanting to turn the gesture into something uncomfortable and abrasive on his part, Stiles closed his lips and quickly pulled on the hoody. 

 

Stiles was swimming in the material, but he couldn't bring himself to really care about the ill-fitting garment when it was so soft and warm around him. Stiles zipped up the front all the way to his throat and shoved his hands into the pockets. 

 

He was so preoccupied with the sudden warmth returning to his body that he didn't even notice the blossom of color on Derek's pale cheeks in the dim firelight after he realized his own actions and caught his scent blending with Stiles' sweet and enticing scent of warm honey, something fresh and herbal, and something a little richer and smokier, like cinnamon or hazel nut. Derek had been raised in a pack, with his mom adamantly teaching him their customs and traditions. And yet, he hadn't even thought twice about the possible implications of giving Stiles something of his and essentially scenting him. 

 

Stiles didn't seem to have noticed, but the human boy looked so content and relaxed—more so than Derek had ever seen him—and he just couldn't bring himself to say anything and possibly cause the other to hand the sweater back over to him. He was trying hard not to think too much about the soft scent of them both circling around him. He already clung to the other boy constantly and practically idolized everything he did. He didn't need yet another thing to make himself look like a desperate kid to Stiles. 

 

Stiles was just . . . he was so cool and he was the smartest person Derek had ever met but always so quiet and reserved. It seemed like he always knew everything about everyone else in the room without letting anyone ever see his own hand before he played. He was quiet and calm, but Derek could see a river of thoughts and life behind his eyes like a never-ending flow and he so desperately wanted a peek at what was going on inside Stiles' head. Not to mention he was unfairly attractive and everything about him seemed graceful and beautiful. Stiles looked delicate when just looking at his features, soft even, but he also exuded a strength that Derek had only seen in a few people his whole life. His mother, his grandfather, Mark, and now Stiles. 

 

Derek gazed at Stiles' profile, studying the planes of his face while the other was distracted and not so in-tune with his surroundings. He tracked the sparse trail of dark little moles over the expanse of his fair skin with his eyes, finding them uniquely beautiful and quite distracting. He didn’t know how long he'd sat there like that, leaning back so he was just out of Stiles' peripheral so he could avidly study him, but when he felt himself being watched he turned to find Mark on the other side of the clearing staring him down with a hard scrutinizing gaze. 

 

He wasn’t sure what he was looking for or what he was thinking about, but Derek felt oddly transparent under that gaze, like Mark had caught him doing something he shouldn’t, but he isn’t sure yet what he'd done wrong. Derek hadn’t been particularly close with the man before, but now he almost actively avoided the man because of his nightly encounters. 

 

He didn’t even mean to do it! One moment he’s fast asleep, the next he’s jumping out of bed mid-shift with the overwhelming need to protect and comfort the distressed human in the house he shouldn’t even be able to hear from his room. And each night, he was met with the stern resistance of Stiles' warden. It was made all the more frustrating by the fact that he was kept away from comforting the boy to protect Stiles from the full-shifted, barely in control werewolf. No, he was kept away because they didn’t trust Stiles to be alone with the Alpha's son. 

 

It was ridiculous!  

 

Derek made friends outside of the pack all the time. He was even encouraged to be open-minded have plenty of human friends. Hell, uncle Peter has even been pestering him to get a girlfriend, says it's 'part of the teenage experience’. Laura even offered to find someone for him so that he wouldn’t be at home so much when she herself was pretty much only home to eat and sleep. All Derek was trying to do was make a friend—one who was even in-the-know about the supernatural already, too—but he kept hitting speed bumps. Also, he was fairly sure his mom would approve his decision to befriend the other boy as well, considering she was the one to defend Stiles and vouch for him in the first place. If Mark continued to keep him from helping the boy when he was so distressed and pained by whatever plagued his dreams, then maybe Derek would have to go to the Alpha—his pride and dignity be damned, his behavior was getting absurd—to wring some sense back into the wolf. 

 

Or. . . maybe he wouldn’t have to, Derek thought as he watched the pensive expression on Mark's face slowly morph into something else. Annoyance, apprehension, and ultimately, resignation. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The night after the new moon, something odd happened. Throughout the day, since it was a Saturday and he didn’t have school, Derek was nearly glued to Stiles' side—that was the same as always—it wasn't until much later that something strange occurred. Stiles had gone to sleep late. As usual. Though the dream that soon descended on him was much worse than usual. 

 

These days, Stiles' nightmares mostly consisted of memories instead of horrifying, made-up dreamscapes. He figured, his mind just wasn't creative enough to come up with something worse than what he'd already lived through. That night, Stiles' twisted mind proved him oh-so-very wrong. 

 

Stiles knew that his baggage, his past, his trauma would have a constant presence in his life. His day-to-day would just naturally include jumpiness and paranoia with a dash of flashbacks and the occasional unmitigated freak-out. But he shouldered it all, and just tried his best to overcome it and move on with his day as quickly as possible. It did a relatively okay job of keeping his shit together, too, but sometimes . . . sometimes he had setbacks. Sometimes he had days or nights that were just worse. And sometimes there was a reason—a catalyst that swept his feet out from under him—on that particular day, but just as often, there seemed to be no cause for his setback (at least, nothing that was apparent to Stiles). 

 

That just so happened to be one of his 'bad' nights, and he didn't know why, just that it was definitely his worst night since bunking up with the Hale Pack. His dreams a mixture of memory and whatever sick scenes his brain came up with to torment him when he should be resting. He hadn't had many night terrors since the Nogitsune, but they seemed to go hand in hand with his worst nights. Which was more often that he'd like. It was why he'd insisted on a room furthest from the others with as much soundproofing between him and the other wolves. 

 

Stiles' night terrors were loud and usually pretty devastating. They were like panic attacks that happened while you're asleep and vulnerable, unable to calm yourself down before the panic attack got out of hand. The line between dreaming and reality became very blurred and it took him a long time to realize he wasn't dreaming anymore. He'd bolt up in bed, often times screaming with his throat already torn and aching from shouting and screaming before he'd even woken up. 

 

Sometimes he'd thrash in his blankets, knocking things over around him, other times he'd flee and either end up hurting himself in his desperate attempt to escape, or wind up hiding in some small, enclosed space. When he still slept in his own house, he usually come to, hyperventilating while cramped into the smallest corner of his closet or curled up in his bath tub with the shower curtain drawn closed. He wasn't entirely sure why his panicked brain sought out the smallest place he could fit into, but all he knew was that in the moment, feeling the solid walls pressing in around him on almost all sides made him feel safer, gave him the sense of being hidden. 

 

It was the first time he'd had a full-on night terror since going back in time and his brain did not cope well with being unfamiliar with his surroundings. The attic room was too open, furniture too sparse when he shot up in bed with a cry dying on his tongue, vision blurred and mind shut down to only the overwhelming impressions of fear and danger and have to hide now! He scrambled out of bed on numb feet, barely feeling the oxygen flooding his lungs as his head spun and he looked for somewhere to go, anywhere! 

 

The next thing he knew, he was falling into the corner furthest from any windows and curling in on himself. His breathing was stuttered and uncontrollable, loud and abrasive in his ringing ears. His entire body trembled so hard his bones felt weak and his muscles rendered useless as the shivering took command of him. He pressed more firmly into the corner of the room, feeling the cold, solid wall against his back and side. His legs were folded so close to his front that it was almost painful and he knew the position would make the following day stiff and aching. 

 

Distantly, he heard a commotion coming from somewhere far off, but he could only spare a single thought of hoping it stayed away because he was in no condition to so much as stand much less fight. Stiles' face was wet with tears and cold sweat as he heaved each breath, a victim to his own body as it held merciless control over him. 

 

Stiles was still trudging through the worst of it when his attention was weakly drawn away from where he was staring unseeingly at the dark grains running through the wood a few inches from his face as he heard the sound of claws against wood and a door slammed shut angrily a moment later. Stiles jerked at the sudden slam but remained pressed firmly to the corner as his eyes locked on the stairs just as a massive black wolf slowly rose from the steps. 

 

The wolf was huge, probably big enough to be level with Stiles' sternum if he were standing and the wolf was still on all fours. It's thick black fur seemed threaded with smoky shadows in the darkness of the room and its golden eyes gleamed in the darkness like beautiful gold embroidery amongst black silk. However, instead of a terrifying beast that seemed to have manifest from his nightmares, the wolf was practically laying flush against the ground, it's head bowed low enough that it's black nose almost touched the floor panels, and its ears turned back and flattened against its head. 

 

The wolf crept closer to where Stiles was still crumpled in the corner and gave a soft whine that pierced through the gales of Stiles' own breathing in his ears. The beast continued to move closer at a snail's pace. Stiles should be terrified, his panic should be getting worse, but he wasn't. He wasn't lucid enough to realize why, but he didn't try to flee or fight off the wolf, he just kept staring at it as his body betrayed him and continued to quake with the aftermath of the night terror. 

 

Eventually, the wolf reached halfway across the room, but Stiles didn't have the strength or attention span to continue to eye its approach, so he let his head fall to the side against the wall and shut his eyes. Continuing to tremble and sweat and heave. 

 

His mind stumbled for a moment, going blank under the strain of trying to reconnect the currents between his body and his rationale, it slipped for a moment and it was a bit like blacking out. The next time Stiles was able to begin fighting his own mind again in earnest to process things around him and bring back awareness, he must have lost more than just a moment. The huge black wolf was now blocking out the rest of the room, looming over him and casting him in its large shadow as it sat on the floor, front legs straight and thick black tail curling around its body. The wolf was making pained, concerned little noises in the back of its throat and gently nosing at his shoulder with a cold wet snout. 

 

He felt a little more aware of his own body, enough so that his breathing didn't drown out almost every other noise in the room or put him at risk of fainting. His mind still escaped him though, so he only acted on instinct and used strength he knew he didn't have to shift his weight and practically fell against the wolf as he sought comfort in the thick mass of soft fur, powerful frame, and blazing warmth. 

 

He closed his eyes and was barely awake after that. Vaguely, he was aware of the wolf moving, carefully pushing him into a more comfortable position, or laying more fully against Stiles, a large and looming presence that Stiles felt was protecting him, for whatever reason. 

 

He wasn't sure if he was actually awake for all of it, or if he'd been drifting in and out of sleep, but he could feel the passage of time slowly drifting by each time he opened his eyes and registered the slowly changing light within the room. Eventually, he came down enough from the night terror to process what had actually happened. 

 

Stiles had a night terror in a house full of werewolves and had undoubtedly been noisy. Derek, who always seemed to show up when his night turned unpleasant, had of course heard him and once again came to his room in the middle of the night. He knew Mark would have been guarding his door again last night when all of that happened, so for some reason, he'd let Derek come in unlike all the other times. Either Derek had finally put his foot—paw—down and convinced Mark he wouldn't be giving up last night, or Mark had been upset enough by what he heard from Stiles that he'd given in without much fight. 

 

It all ended with Derek in his wolf form spending the night with him in the corner of his room, curled together like two children in the middle of a thunderstorm. By the time dawn broke over the preserve and began to fill the attic room with growing, bright light, Stiles had calmed down and had enough presence of mind to know he could handle the rest on his own. Knowing that Derek hadn't slept a wink while watching over and tending to Stiles, the older of the two made quick work of shooing the wolf off to go catch a few hours before he was woken up for breakfast. Wolf-Derek had done quite a bit of whining, but eventually relented when Stiles softly thanked him for staying with him and then settled into his serious tone and stated that he would go back to his room now. 

 

Derek may like to believe that Stiles and he were the same age, but the reality was that Stiles was almost two years older than him and had lived through worlds more than Derek had. It didn't matter that Derek was the Alpha's son, when it came to mentality, experience, and intellect, Stiles outranked him without a doubt and the wolf was certainly reluctant to disobey. 

 

Stiles didn’t try to go back to sleep once Derek left. Instead, he forced himself to start his day early, knowing that the best—only—way that he coped with the aftermath of a 'bad' night was to throw him back into his normal routine and ground himself with something familiar. So, as soon as Derek had left, Stiles went down to take a shower and wash off the dried sweat, tears, and lingering scent of terror and grief from him before being around the rest of the pack. He hoped that the scalding hot water would be enough to wash away the evidence of his night. 

 

Stiles purposefully avoided looking at the wolf stationed at the bottom of the stairs. He wasn't sure what he would see if he looked at the man, but he was positive he didn't wish to know. 

 

Unfortunately, gallons of hot water and several harsh scrubbings of soap and a washcloth could only do so much. When Stiles reluctantly wiped away the thick veil of steam from the mirror in the bathroom, he was met with his own appearance, more haggard than ever. He was paler than usual, even with the heat of the shower, and his pallor was slightly grey. His eyes were dull and unfocused, and the dark smudges underneath them more prominent against his harrowed face. Even with Stiles' usual state of sleep-deprived and frigid, he looked rough. 

 

Knowing there wasn't much else he could do about it, instead of putting his strength into appearing as 'normal' as possible, he instead delved deeper into his default and became as unapproachable as possible. When he left the haven of the bathroom, his efforts paid off when not a single person he encountered dare ask him about his appearance—or ask him anything, really—and the only person to utter a word to him for the entirety of that day was Derek, who devoted his Sunday to trailing after Stiles incessantly from the moment he woke up to the moment he had to go back to his own room that night. 

 

Stiles didn't really mind though, because Derek was smart and more intuitive than a high school brat had any right to be. Derek didn’t bring up the night before at all, though Stiles could tell he'd been fully aware of the situation and hadn't somehow forgotten what had happened in his wolf-form. He also didn't bring attention to the many times throughout the day when Stiles' concentration slipped and he spent unknown amounts of time unmoving, hardly blinking as his mind wandered, untethered. 

 

That night, Stiles had been especially reluctant to try to sleep, so he had planned on just staying up. He'd kept himself busy with menial things for a while; right up until it high two in the morning and there was the sound of his door opening at the bottom of the stairs and the telling clicks of claws on wood. Stiles had been surprised by Derek's appearance, since he'd not been asleep and having a nightmare. However, the wolf soon made his purpose known as he began nudging Stiles away from his desk, towards the bed with a series of soft huffs and not-quite-growls grunts when he opened his mouth to protest. Eventually, Stiles sighed and gave in to the mutt's demands. 

 

He slid into bed and waited for the wolf to leave, but instead, Derek's large black form settled down on the floor right next to Stiles' bed and curled up to sleep himself. Derek was close enough that if Stiles moved to the edge of his bed and let his arm dangle, he could get a handful of onyx fur. Stiles eventually fell asleep and had a milder dream about some fight his pack had been in with some hunters that ended in blood, but not death. 

 

When he awoke with a twitch, his breathing was fast, but easy enough to calm down, and he found that his hand was twisted in a fistful of black fur—not that the wolf looking at him with glowing eyes seemed to even notice the probably uncomfortably tight hold he had on its coat and was instead nudging at his forehead with its wet nose and occasionally sniffing and letting out little huffs that he was unable to decipher. He dropped back off almost as soon was Derek gave one last warm puff against his shoulder and settled back down with Stiles' fingers still tangled in his fur. 

 

After that night, Derek returned the next night—whether he was in the middle of a nightmare or not—and the night after that, and the one after that. Stiles didn't really understand it, but he also didn't bother to question it. After a week of the nightly visits, Mark stopped putting up even the smallest protest when Derek showed up in his wolf-form. He also stopped looking ready to remove Stiles' head from his body every time Derek came to accompany him when he had duties or urged the older male to sit with him during every meal he could. 

 

Mark still watched him like a hawk and glared at him like he was his own personal enemy. The aggression hadn't ebbed at all—if anything, Stiles could sense Mark getting more frustrated the longer Stiles went without doing something to provoke a fight—but the days went on and Stiles continued to show the others that he was prickly and unwelcoming, and probably horrible company, but still unwilling to do anything to hurt a single member of the pack. 

 

The rest of the pack grew more accustomed to his presence and instead of purposefully ignoring him either to avoid uncomfortable confrontations or to spite him, they all seemed to genuinely forget he was there now. Stiles was quiet and when you got used to his uninviting aura, he became more of a flat, brick wall than a menacing fortress. There was one, though, that seemed to grow more aware and intrigued by him each day, and it wasn't who he had expected. 

 

It started as unabashed scrutiny during meals, that he usually returned in full just to show he wasn't one to be easily cowed or embarrassed. Then it was the shadow of a small figure in his peripheral as he worked around the property, slipping out of sight whenever he turned to look at them straight on. After a few days, he heard small, quiet footsteps trailing after him throughout the day. Mark didn't seem amused by the additional guard, but couldn't really say anything about it, considering their identity. 

 

After a while, his little 'spy' grew bold enough to leave the shadows and just blatantly sought him out and watched him. Glaring at him, but not saying a word. Stiles didn't give the glowers much weight though, since Cora's young face just seemed to naturally glare at absolutely everything. 

 

For some reason, the youngest Hale child had taken a shining to Stiles and became his new shadow. They never spoke—Stiles was pretty sure they didn't share a single word between the two of them—she just silently watched him, and Stiles focused on his work, just as silently. In fact, since the little pup was still homeschooled, she was around Stiles even more than Derek was, which was saying something. 

 

Mark seemed like he was going to have a heart attack every time Cora showed up to keep the human company, but if he tried to make her leave, she showed him what it looked like when she really glared. Also, more than once Cora had proved that she wasn't above going to her mother to complain if Mark tried to get in her way. The pup was . . . determined. 

 

For the Alpha's part, she seemed highly amused by Cora's choice in companion. Talia had shared with him one evening while they were both helping with dinner and the pups were shooed out of the kitchen long before, that Cora didn't really open up to others well. She fondly explained her daughter's stand-offish tendencies, but he picked up on a few notes of worry. Stiles hadn't been so sure that Cora had necessarily 'opened up to him' in any sense, considering the complete lack of verbal communication between them, but if the girl gained something from his company, then he was glad he could do something. 

 

After a week of Cora keeping him company, it seemed that she was ready to take their acquaintanceship a step further into friendship. Stiles had been out working in the garden, sweating and viciously uprooting a weed that had sprouted amongst the zucchinis, when Cora appeared out of nowhere with two juice boxes and a sandwich baggy full of goldfish crackers. Without a drop of speech between them, they moved over to the thick grass beside the garden, sat down, and ate their snack. Anyone who passed by was gifted with matching, unintentional, withering glares as they sucked down their juice boxes. 

 

After that, Stiles stopped avoiding the others for lunch and accompanied Cora. The other pups seemed cautious because of their parents' reactions towards him, but with Cora for company, Stiles was at least left alone by the adults. Stiles still wasn't really sure what to make of the intimidating little creature, but she was quiet, didn't get in the way, and she always brought Stiles snacks. She was odd: cold and aggressive and though she never showed it in front of Stiles, he'd seen her short fuse with the other kids on several occasions when she didn't know he was watching. 

 

Derek had found it hilarious, saying that Cora was exactly like Stiles, just pocket-sized. Cora had somehow heard that comment and the next morning, Derek awoke to all of his shoes having ended up on the roof. Stiles may or may not have heard the telling thumps after dinner that evening, and he may or may not have snuck Cora an extra turkey sandwich during lunch the next day. 

 

They did run into a few speed bumps after a while, though. It seemed, Cora didn't care for her lessons very much and thought spending time with Stiles was a bit more important. The girl had started to repeatedly sneak out of lessons to go find Stiles instead. The small group of adults in charge of homeschooling seemed to gain a renewed sense of loathing towards Stiles because of it. Eventually, Stiles had to step after Talia had caught wind and warned the little wolf that the next time she snuck out, she would be grounded. 

 

Stiles had waited for Cora to sniff him out that afternoon. When she arrived, he handed her a bag of chips—food seemed to be the best medium when it came to her—and waited until she'd dug into them to speak. He didn't say much, but his words were clear and stern. He didn't beg her to go to her lessons or threaten to never spend time with her again or try to gently explain that school is important and 'big girls did as they were told' or any of that bullshit. He wasn't tactful, he wasn't gentle, he didn't treat her like a toddler just learning its first words. 

 

"Stop sneaking out of your lessons." Stiles crossed his arms and leaned back against a tree, voice hard and eyes piercing as he looked out at the back yard from the tree line. Cora looked up at him abruptly. 

 

"If you fall behind in school, you won't get the chance to go to public school later like your brother and sister. You might not like it, but adults can be clueless at times and the only way to reassure them that they're doing a good job of raising you, is when you hit the normal mile stones like other kids. So, go to class like the other kids, because adults can be idiots and they need reassurance too. Don't be a brat." Stiles looked down at Cora at the end and the girl sighed. 

 

Cora doesn't care about what she's being taught—that he can tell quite clearly—she's much more invested in pack-life than the outside world. She wouldn't care about going out, seeing the world, going to college (yet), or leaving the pack. However, she does care about the pack, and leveling with her and telling her flat out that her missing her lessons is more of a burden to the adults of the pack than them having to teach her, will bring things to perspective. Cora's tough, and she's also the type of kid to feel like she's taking care of and humoring adults more than they're taking care of her. You had to work at a different angle to reach her motivations and get her to cooperate. 

 

Following their 'talk' Cora didn't miss any more of her lessons. He didn't tell anyone about their chat, but a few days later, Talia pulled him aside with a knowing smile and thanked him for getting through to her. Stiles could only nod and try to mask his surprise as the Alpha thanked him. 

 

Apparently, his actions had more impact than he realized. The constant presence of either Cora or Derek at his side seemed to set the others at ease around him. It was a slow, gradual process—so much so that he didn't even notice it at first. It moved from the pack being used to his presence enough to block him out completely, to him feeling like they might actually be beginning to warm up to him. His sharp edges slowly started to blur and bend into the seams of the pack. 

 

On the day of the full moon that month, while everyone was busy with preparations for the run through the preserve later that night, no one really thought twice about asking Stiles to run little errands around the house or retrieve someone for them. They seemed to forget for a while that he was the outsider. It had felt . . . good. Surprising, but good. 

 

For a while, Stiles had only thought about what his purpose was to be there, in the past and with the Hales. He would stick around, keep Paige alive, and then make sure the timeline changed enough to prevent his own past. Whether they ended up hating him or not, whether they, whether he had to get his hands dirty or not, Stiles' only objective was to make things better. Not get his pack back, or make friends, or fix himself like Deaton had hoped. 

 

So, he felt an odd, fluttering uneasiness in his gut when he realized the short two weeks he'd spent around the Hale Pack was making him loosen the crushing grip he had on his walls. And he wasn't sure if it was a good thing or not. Time and experience had told him that getting comfortable only left you vulnerable for travesty. The magic used to send him back in time really seemed like a last-resort, one-use-only sort of deal so he knew he could fuck this up. 

 

Just him going back in time and his former self being erased could have been enough to change the course of the future already so he had to be ready for anything. There was very little to be certain of when it came to the laws of time with the addition of magic. This was his only chance to change things and Stiles felt like the fate of his loved ones—the fate of the town, really—was in his hands. Could he afford to relax? 

 

What if his plan to save Paige isn't enough? Stiles knew without a doubt that if he couldn't fix the future by saving her, then he wouldn't hesitate to take preemptive measures to keep people alive. What if Kate showed up with her genocidal father despite there not being a death of a human girl from a wolf? What if they had another tie to Beacon Hills that brought them here? Stiles knew that he didn't care enough about the fact Kate hadn't used Derek to slaughter his pack yet, if he saw the twisted hunter around Beacon Hills, he wouldn't hesitate to kill her. 

 

Too many times in his past had he let Scott's righteous moral compass keep him from getting rid of monsters, and every time some seemed to pay with their lives (usually many people). Scott had believed that no one was unredeemable, and even the most heinous monsters could be forgiven. Perhaps it had a little something to do with Scott's dad, years of his childhood feeling conflicted with loving the man because he was his father, and also fearing him because of how he transformed at the bottom of a bottle. The teen was always desperate to give people the benefit of the doubt because closing himself off to them hurt too much. 

 

Stiles, on the other hand, had learned early of the duality of the world. His beautiful, brilliant, kind mother had been taken by a horrifying degenerative disease. His loving, righteous, protective father had forgotten his grieving son in the burning haze of whiskey. Parents weren't perfect and couldn't always take care of a child. Adults didn't always know everything and could be just as scared as a kid. Cops broke laws and killed the people they were meant to protect. Teachers could spread ignorance. 

 

He knew that it made him seem jaded, but Stiles didn't trust the good and didn't forgive the bad. If there was a beast in front of him that he knew he couldn't beat, baring its fangs, he wouldn't try to gain its trust so he could turn his back to it he would get rid of it by any means possible. Stiles had no illusions of himself being a part of the 'good.' By his own definitions, he knew he was a monster. He had killed and harmed and would do it again with very little remorse. But he was a monster that protected those close to him. He was selfless and merciless because it kept people alive and maybe more of his pack would have survived if he'd stopped fighting that part of himself sooner. 

 

He knew what he was, and what he'd do to protect people. So, if Kate or Gerard so much as stepped foot in Beacon Hills, he would do what he felt was necessary and get rid of them. If Hunters came to the Hale house in the middle of the night, whether they had lit their matches or not, he would get rid of them. If Peter still ended up burned in the fire and went crazy, he would get rid of him. If the Alpha Pack or the sweet English substitute named Jenifer so much as passed through, he would get rid of them. He had knowledge of the future in his head and he would not risk losing anybody by not putting it to use. 

 

And whatever actions he took for the sake of protecting everyone, might not be seen as such in the eyes of the Hale Pack. Did he really want to get close to these people, only to prove them right from the beginning by trying to kill a seemingly innocent person? Could he let Cora trail after him with snacks when he might one day be exiled or killed by her pack? Could he let Derek curl up beside his bed at night knowing he might one day hurt him by hurting someone else—perhaps even his beloved uncle? 

 

It was thoughts like those that made the fluttering in his gut at the slow acceptance from the pack feel more like a slithering, writhing creature instead of something pleasant. That made him feel unsure of whether to take a step forward and allow himself a modicum of peace, or step back and further himself from everyone including Derek and Cora. 

 

Sometimes he stayed up even later than usual, staring out his window at night and vaguely thinking about how to slip away unnoticed by the others and hide himself away within Beacon Hills. Though, just as frequently, he'd wake up to brilliant beams of blazing morning light and warmth all around him with the lingering scent of Derek in the air and let himself drift in visions of laughter and a full, healthy pack surrounding him each meal. He'd lose himself in phantom touches from pack members to scent him and cloak him in physical affection to anchor him. He'd sink into painfully vivid daydreams of the warmth of another's presence, of breaking down someone's walls with sharp humor, of making them laugh and pull him closer because he was comfortable and welcoming and didn't make them uneasy. 

 

They were two extremes, neither a certainty, and neither without risk. Stiles was at the precipice of something, like his rigid form was slowly warping and becoming pliable and he had no idea what shape he would take on when it was done. He didn't know how to proceed and it made him feel just as unsure of the future as anyone else. He was supposed to know the future, but none of his knowledge could tell him whether he should distance himself, or let him be pulled into the slow current he was standing in. 

 

The more he thought about it, though, the more simplified his chaotic brain chipped it down to be. In the end, it came down to two actions. Right then, he was at a standstill, not moving at all and he knew that if he didn't start moving soon, he would only hurt himself and the ones around him more. So, the options were: move forward, or more backward. 

 

Backward, he would go back to his original plan, stay out of the Hale's way and carefully manipulate things from the shadows. It would give him a buffer from the grief if he didn't succeed. It also made the future more predictable if he's not in the thick of things, would probably make his job of changing things easier. He could go back to his iron-forged barriers and protections that he had been forced to build over time and he wouldn't feel so blind. The broken part of him, the part that was still crippled by loss and grief, desperately wanted him to take that option. It wanted him to move backwards, to bath in the pain because it meant not forgetting the ones he'd lost for a second. It was hurt and angry and the only way it could function was to turn that on Stiles and bleed him dry. 

 

However . . .  

 

Forward, would mean letting himself do what Talia was greatly hoping for. It meant opening up, just a little bit, and letting someone in. He would join the pack as an official member, form new pack bonds, and allow the pack members to rely on him as much as he would rely on them. It meant not letting himself be consumed by his past. He would have to face the reality that he hadn't died along with his old pack and he actually had a future. He would need to accept that he had years and maybe even decades of his life left and he would have to fill it. Because the child John and Claudia would have had no longer exists and his future had been traded in for Stiles' broken and wretched self, so he had to at least honor that by trying to build a decent life for himself. 

 

One option was safe—predictable—but also bleak and lacked any hopes for a life beyond his task. While the other was risky, dangerous, and left him completely exposed, it also offered him a future, stability, and the chance to one day heal. The decision should be easy, he should know what he wants out of his life, he should know what he wants out of tomorrow, but right then, he's too much of a coward to take a step in either direction. 

 

So, when he's gently roped into interacting with and helping the pack for the full moon, he doesn't willingly offer himself and try to connect with others, but he also doesn't decline the requests or glare at anyone who approached him. When the full moon passed and the pack sort of just continued to willingly interact with him he adjusted quickly and tried to put it out of his head during the day. 

 

Thinking about it would mean having to make a decision. Stiles blatantly avoided thinking about it, because then he might notice that the weeks following the full moon, while Derek was on winter break and unwilling to leave Stiles' side for hardly a moment, he slowly began to settle into life amongst the wolves and his 'tomorrow' was becoming more and more tangible. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles had forgotten how quickly time moved when you didn't anticipate every day as your last. In the blink of an eye, a month and a half had passed since Stiles had boarded up with the Hales. A month and a half, and not once did Stiles venture into town. . . 

 

It's not that the pack kept him from going, or anything—in fact, he'd had plenty of opportunity to go and get a change of scenery—he'd been purposefully avoiding it. Facing the familiar ghosts that orbited around and were within the pack was one thing; 

 

Derek had been a completely different person from the hardened, angry wolf he'd remembered. Deaton was someone he'd only grown close to at the very end of his time in the life he used to have and he didn't really run into younger Deaton that often during the day. Cora was someone he vaguely knew in his time and the younger Cora had unexpectedly grown on him. Peter was apparently traveling—backpacking through jungles and over mountains and doing some soul-searching or whatever. Finally, he'd never met Laura or the rest of the Hale pack before the fire so most of them were new faces and only a few had stories attached to them. 

 

Sometimes being around the pack brought up unpleasant memories, but it was mostly manageable. 

 

However . . . town was where he'd been raised. Where he had been the sheriff's son and knew more people than the sheriff himself. It was where he'd learned the names and life story of every officer—and quite a few criminals—who entered the police station. Where he had a love-hate relationship with his neighbors for all of the stunts he and Scott had pulled during their days. There was a life time of teachers and bored cashiers and nosey housewives and notorious stray cats that terrorized kids and teens alike on their walks to school. 

 

It was where Scott was still tiny and asthmatic, eager for a friend but terrified of the world. Where Erica was tormented by seizures and underprepared, underpaid parents. Where Boyd had just recently been sent to stay with his grandmother while his young, single mother was desperately trying to get her shit together enough to get her son back. It was where Isaac's brother was still alive and their father was just a normal guy that maybe got just a little disgruntled after a beer or two. Where Jackson was being pampered and preened by parents compensating for the fact that he wasn't really theirs, and Lydia was fascinated by the esteemed scholars her mother and father were and had yet to witness her mother with her arms looped around a man years younger who certainly wasn't her father. 

 

It was where Stiles' dad was still an earnest—if not a little overworked—deputy, and where his mom was still happily unaware of her illness. . . 

 

Stiles had been avoiding it, basking in the protective buffer of the preserve, allowing himself to forget who waited beyond the trees. It was easier to just pretend he was somewhere else entirely—another world even. 

 

Unfortunately, Stiles' plan to stay as far away as possible so as to honor the whole 'out of sight, out of mind' thing came to quick end when one of the youngest pups had run out of formula and everyone else was either gone, busy, or couldn't drive. Even Mark, who had continued to stick to Stiles like a shadow, had been told—ordered—by Talia to join her and half a dozen other wolves on a hunt in the preserve. Once again, Stiles knew she had done it to give him a reprieve. Which he had been thankful of for the first hour. His peace did not last, though. 

 

Which left Stiles to go on the quick grocery run so that the fussy pup—a little pink-cheeked brat named Elijah that was only satiated when his parents were near tears—wouldn't nearly suffocate himself when he inevitably wailed so loud and fiercely that it wrecked the kid's throat and turned his chubby little face beat red. On more than one occasion, the little banshee-impersonator had been thrust into his arms mid-fit by one of his desperate parents as they frantically tore their surroundings apart looking for a pacifier. Stiles had nearly left with a burst eardrum. 

 

It also meant that his time was running out and although he probably had a little over an hour to get the formula as well as the other items that had been added to the short list by Gloria when she heard he was going to the store, he didn't want to push his luck by putting it off. So, Stiles did his best not to think about what might await him in town and just jumped into motion. Mind carefully blank, Stiles slid into the nice, modern car he'd been handed the keys to and began driving the familiar road towards town on autopilot. 

 

He knew a lot of people in Beacon Hills, but the only ones he was worried about running into were the ones he'd had to recently watch be lowered into the ground. His pack may have been small in comparison to most packs, but there were still too many opportunities to run into one of them. What about his dad? 

 

Stiles shook his head to clear his treacherous thoughts away as he left the preserve and began to glide down streets he knew all too well. Not much had changed in the years to come, a few empty lots or buildings he knew would be bought up and put to use, a few small restaurants and diners that would be replaced by a franchise here and there. Luckily, the supermarket Stiles usually shopped at was around and thriving in this time as well, and since he wanted to be in and out as quickly as possible, Stiles didn't bother looking for another store and quickly parked. 

 

The layout of the store had obviously changed, but he didn't have much trouble navigating the aisles with his plastic green basket and the short, crumpled list in hand. He moved as efficiently as possible in the unfamiliar layout and managed to get all the other items except for two packs of double A batteries. He's walking down the aisle where the batteries should be, scowling down at the paper in his hand to check if there was anything missing from his basket when he walks right into an unmanned cart and sends it rolling back into the shelf of batteries, causing a few heavy packs to come raining down. 

 

The clatter causes a woman he hadn't noticed—along with the cart—to whirl around from the other side of the aisle where she had been looking at can-openers. Stiles is muttering apologies as he plucks a few of the battery packs that had fallen into the cart, out and put them on the shelf, since the woman who turn seemed to just stepped away from her cart for a moment when Stiles ran into it. 

 

"Don't worry about, Hun. No harm done." The voice is melodious like a bird and filled with tones of warmth like slow dripping honey and Stiles goes absolutely rigid. He dares to turn and finally look at the woman who was standing on the other side of the cart, an easy-going smile on her soft, rose-petal lips as she helps put a few battery packs back up where they belonged. Stiles' eyes burn as he doesn't dare to blink—or breathe really—as he soaks in her features. Long, silken light brown hair pulled over her shoulder in a loose braid, smooth fair skin that has hardly been touched by age or illness, a smattering of small dark moles that had always looked purposeful and beautiful. A small, slightly upturned nose, and vivid whiskey-colored eyes that were full of light and life. 

 

He'd been so worried about seeing his old pack, he hadn't thought much about seeing the woman who he had yearned for, for half a decade. 

 

Mom. . .  

 

He could smell the faintest hint of her favorite perfume and his hands began to tremble with the need to reach out—to grab her and hold her tightly. But he was just another stranger in a grocery store. He wanted to warn her that she'd get sick. But she was already sick and there wasn't a cure, how could he take away the beautiful veil covering her eyes from the truth when she still had time left to be happy and carefree. He wanted to tell her it was him, Stiles, her son. But she didn't have a son named Stiles and never would. He wanted to get close to her and find out everything about her that he couldn't during his childhood, before she was gone. But what he knew, what she didn't know, and what never happened would crush him. 

 

He wanted to do something, because this was his mother and she was alive and he had a second chance to be with her. But he couldn't. He couldn't do anything without upsetting her, making her think he's insane, or hurting himself beyond repair. So, instead Stiles blinked, unclenched his jaw, tore his eyes away from her, and picked up the last few packs to put them back. By the time Claudia turned to flash him a bright smile, Stiles had disconnected himself from his own mind and the situation enough to appear blank when he met her gaze. 

 

"Don't worry about it, my husband could knock paint from a wall with how clumsy he is! I'm Claudia, by the way." Her thin, long-fingered hand reached over the cart for him to shake. Stiles was hit with a strange wave of remembrance when he looked at that hand. Because it was his mother's hands. The same hands that gently scrubbed through his soapy hair when she would give him a bath, the warm fingers that would trail over his face adoringly each night when she put him to bed, the hands that would sooth bumps and scrapes, that would card through his hair, that would hold his hand firmly every time they left the house, that danced over his sides as he squealed with laughter. Her face was an epiphany, but her hands were a homecoming. 

 

Stiles took the offered hand not even a beat after it came into view and felt his mind go blank and his lips numb when he returned her smile as best as he could. 

 

"Mieczyslaw." He answered automatically, releasing her hand and trying to keep his face neutral as he watched something curious and joyful flutter up in her expression as she mouthed the name to herself, as if wondering how the Polish name would form in her mouth. Then she beamed at him and his fist tightened on the plastic handle of his basket, out of view from the woman. 

 

"Well, it was nice to meet you, Mieczyslaw. I hope to see you around town some time." She stated brightly and politely excused herself, along with her half-full cart. As soon as his mom had disappeared into another aisle, Stiles forced smile vanished and could feel the blood drain from his face. His limbs were tingling and his lungs felt like latex in his chest, expanding artificially as he reached out and ripped two packs of the batteries he needed down from the shelf, threw them into his basket while he was already striding towards checkout. 

 

In a blur, Stiles managed to pay for his items and out to the parking lot. The sun was bright and blinding in the cloudless cerulean sky overwhelming his already painfully buzzing senses as he crossed the lot to where the car was parked. He slid into the driver's seat and dropped the plastic bag into the passenger's seat next to him. He settled his hands onto the steering wheel, needing something to hold onto as his limbs were full of pins and needles and his breathing became louder and more strained in his chest. 

 

Stiles knew there was no fighting this one, so he tried to keep his mind as calm and contained as possible as the panic attack swept over him, full force. However, the moment a stray thought of his mother filtered through the walls of his mind, he lost all control of what little calm he had and it was a lot like when he was coming out of a night terror; numb and quaking limbs, a burst of stinging heat behind his eyes as they filled against his will and spilled hot over his cheeks, shallow gasping breaths that were intermixed with choked sounds and helpless little noises that weren't really sobs murmurs that could even vaguely seem like words. 

 

Stiles broke down as he was flooded with all the thoughts and emotions he'd suppressed while in front of his mom. He'd had bad days before, but that was nothing like that day, out of all the times he'd been hit with the aftermath of his fucked up life, that day was undoubtedly the worst. 

 

Stiles' panic was subsiding and, in its place, another familiar emotion was boiling hot and vicious. Rage. Stiles hands tightened around the steering wheel until the leather groaned, his knuckles turned bone-white, and his joints ached from the tension. He was breathing heavy through his nose, chest heaving, face wet and eyes red while his gaze turned molten. In a flash, Stiles ripped his hand from the wheel and then brought it back down on the wheel with all the force his body could muster his in position. 

 

He hit it again, again, again, again, again while an anguished and terrible growl bubbled up his throat and erupted with a long shout. He hit the steering wheel until his palm ached, his face contorted and he grit his teeth as his movements slowed and the anger bled into a familiar blend of loss and helplessness. Tears began to fall down his cheeks again and he crumpled against the wheel and allowed himself to cry. 

 

His palm throbbed and his body shook. Like a tap had been wedged between his ribs, Stiles let it all slowly drip out of him. He thought of his mom, pushing at the reopened wound inside him so that he could bleed it out quickly and be done sooner, even if it hurt more. 

 

Eventually, he couldn't wring any more out of himself and was forced to shove it back into the shallow folds of his mind to deal with later, when he wasn't in a supermarket parking lot with a rabid pup back at the house waiting for formula. Stiles wiped his face, clenched down on the churning sensation in his stomach, and took a deep, steadying breath. 

 

Starting the car, Stiles' brain felt like it was full of cement as he drove back into the preserve and towards the Hale House. He didn't give himself a moment to linger in the car when he pulled up, otherwise he knew he would stay there for hours if he did. Inside, Stiles kept his head low and was exuding 'do not approach me' in great waves as he made a straight line for the kitchen. He had hoped it would be empty. Unfortunately, Gloria was always reigning over her domain. 

 

She looked up when Stiles entered, brows furrowed and something undoubtedly terse on her tongue for him as she parted her lips. However, whatever she was about to say died as she likely got a good look at his face as he set the plastic bag on the counter. Stiles ignored her and quickly started putting away the few items he'd picked up. He didn't know what his face looked like—not brave enough to look at himself in any of the mirrors in the car—but he knew it had to be pretty bad if the venom that normally secreted from Gloria's gums was rendered useless. 

 

"Stiles?" Stiles paused, back to Gloria. He'd never heard her sound like that. Hesitant, unsure, concerned. It prodded at the wounds he hadn't even gotten a chance to lick at yet. Stiles spun around without a word and strode towards the door leading out to the back yard. Maybe he'd wander out into the woods, out of hearing distance, and truly let himself come undone. Except, Stiles couldn't have a bad day start so early and not expect it to get worse before the sun set. 

 

Coming through the trees just as Stiles was stepping through the door, was the hunting party. Most of them were settling fresh game down at the corner of the yard to be skinned and prepared later. They were smeared with deep red drops and smudges here and there, wearing feral grins and glittering eyes. The Alpha looked the calmest and most collected, smiling at her betas as she set her own kill down. Mark had set his sizable kill down first and was the first to head towards the house, which meant he was also the first to notice Stiles. 

 

Stiles caught the narrowing of his dark eyes and the slight curl of his lip that was so animal-like he knew it wasn't a sneer, but the threatening beginnings of a growl. Stiles turned his head away and took a step toward the tree line, hoping to avoid a confrontation with the wolf when he knew he wasn't really in control of himself right then. However, he was stopped in his tracks by a warning growl. Stiles felt apprehension settle thickly in his gut. Mark was a were whose wolf was much closer to the surface than most, but Mark hadn't growled at Stiles yet, not like that at least. Mark must have been wound up from the hunt and shifting back so recently, which meant he would be especially irritable. 

 

"You left the preserve." It was gruff and tense as it was forced through gritted teeth, not a question, but an accusation. Before Stiles could answer—not that he's sure he would've—Mark's chin tilts up slightly and he sees the wolf's nostrils flare as he inhales deep, every part of Stiles goes rigid at the act. He glances briefly over Mark's shoulder, but the other wolves were still on the other side of the lawn, situating the game and chatting idly with each other. No one had notice him and Mark yet. 

 

His attention returned to the man before him when he growled deeper and more dangerously that time. Stiles knew that confrontation was looking more and more unavoidable by the second. 

 

"You reek of fear, panic, and pain. What did you do?" Mark took a step closer, body strung taut like a cord as his eyes flared a molten gold. The other wolves were finally beginning to move towards them and a few had noticed them standing together and were shooting the pair curious looks. 

 

"I didn't do anything." Stiles stated calmly and slowly, hoping the wolf had the sense to listen to his heart beat and hear the truth in his words. Mark thought Stiles had gone into town and did something nefarious. He should have known that the man who'd been convinced Stiles was trouble wouldn't let something like his current state slide. There was blood in the water and Mark was too far gone at that point to realize it was Stiles'. 

 

"Bullshit!" Mark spat, words filtering clumsily through his long white fangs. The approaching wolves seemed to finally catch on to the thick, coiling atmosphere around the two of them as they came closer and stopped a few yards away to watch them with trepidation. 

 

Stiles then realized what was about to happen. It had been brewing since the moment Stiles entered Talia's office to tell them he would be staying in Beacon Hills. He was barely holding himself together from what had happened back at the supermarket, but Stiles could still feel the remnants of something awful and tar-like in his gut from it all and the thought of a fight honestly sounded like something he needed. Weeks of being quiet, calm, idle and without any sort of fight left him restless and high-strung. He'd gone from his dangerous, hellish world to one where his biggest worry day-to-day was a raspberry bush. He'd been burning alive in the scalding waters and then suddenly he was dumped into an icy pool and his body wasn't acclimating. He needed a bit of burn to keep him from breaking through his own skin. 

 

While he still had a moment before he would need his complete focus, Stiles' eyes sought out Talia's in the small crowd. When he found them, he saw the Alpha looking worried and tense, like she was getting ready to intervene. Stiles made sure she was looking at him when he gave her a short but firm shake of his head, trying to remind her with his stare of what they had discussed right before the new moon gathering. He had warned her that the fight would happen eventually, and when it did, she shouldn't try to stop it or step in. 

 

Talia looked conflicted for a long moment, and Stiles briefly worried that she would disregard his advice and force the agitated wolf before him to back down, which would only make things worse for them both. Then, with one last trepid glance at Mark, she turned and gave Stiles a shallow dip of her head. She crossed her arms over her chest and focused her complete attention on the two of them while the other wolves were either looking between them and Talia, or watching them with intrigue from those that had caught on to what was brewing. 

 

"I will tell you one last time," Stiles gritted, meeting Mark's gaze with a challenge in his eyes, "Nothing happened. I ran an errand for Gloria and came right back." Not entirely true, and the small flutter in his chest was Mark's breaking point. 

 

With a guttural snarl, Mark beta shifted and launched himself at Stiles. He was anticipating him though, using the wolf's momentum against him, Stiles' right arm shot out to hook around the opposite side of Mark's neck and used his strength to pull him off course so he went crashing into the wall instead. Stiles spun to keep his back from the wolf and was already waiting for the wolf's next attack. Off to the side, he heard a few sounds of shock, followed by Talia's crisp tone warning them to stay out of it. 

 

Mark came at Stiles again and his heart began to pick up into a rhythm he was used to. Stiles didn't have the same strength or speed of a wolf, but he was smart, his instincts were sharp, and he was merciless. Stiles fought rough, he didn't pull punches, and he didn't stop until someone either forced him to or the other stopped getting up. Stiles didn't hate, or even dislike Mark, he actually held a lot of respect for the man, but he would break him without a second thought. 

 

Mark made to thrash his claws at Stiles, but the younger male brought his hand down hard on Mark's wrist to knock it away and followed it with a vicious kick to Mark's sternum that had him stumbling back and coughing. Stiles kept evading and misdirecting every swipe of claws or snap of teeth and it was only making Mark angrier and more frustrated. Suddenly, the wolf changed tactics and curled his hands into fists, protecting Stiles from his claws but also making it easier to jab and hit Stiles. He took a blow to the face that jarred his vision for a moment and cut his cheek on his teeth, it would certainly bruise but it hardly slowed the human down. 

 

Stiles grunted through scarlet coated teeth and finally let himself go. He put all of his weight into the solid kick to Mark's face and Stiles was already throwing himself onto the man before he'd even hit the ground. With a shout, Stiles reared up so he was straddling Mark and sent a series of punches into his face, immediately bringing forth blood and sickening crunches of cartilage but he didn't slow down. Wolves healed fast, so his objective was to cause as much damage as possible without hurting himself too much and wear the wolf down with having to heal so much. 

 

Mark's face was covered in crimson rivulets and Stiles could feel the skin of his knuckles splitting, the bones jarred with each hit. 

 

Stiles brought an elbow down on his sternum to force the air from his lungs with a pathetic wheeze and brought the other arm up to set his weight down on the man's windpipe to keep the air out. Stiles was only able to keep him there for a few moments as the wolf kicked and strained under him before Mark got his wits about him and shoved him off. The moment Stiles was pushed off, he was scrambling to his feet but the moment of distraction was enough for Mark to jump up and land another punch to his face and one to his gut. Stiles used the proximity to knee him in the groin and then really lay into his ribs. At Mark's low grunt and hissing exhalation, Stiles knew a few had at least cracked, if not broken. 

 

Good. Bones took more energy and time to heal.  

 

They continued to lay into each other, hitting and kicking and tearing at flesh with claws and blunt human nails. Stiles chest was heaving with exertion and his body was toeing its limits but there were embers in his bones and acid in his veins and he couldn't see himself slowing down or giving in any time soon. There was rage still roiling inside him from his encounter with his mother and he used it then, putting it into every punch and every kick until he was losing track of everything except the feeling of his fist against hot flesh and the consuming need to destroy and break. 

 

In the back of his mind, he was grateful that Mark was a wolf and would heal, because he knew he'd lost the ability to pull punches and if he were fighting a human, he wasn't sure he would be able to stop even when they stopped breathing. 

 

As the fight wore on, Stiles could tell Mark was spending his energy and the animalistic, dissociative glimmer in his eyes was beginning to fade. Mark—the human side of him—was slowly starting to come back, but the wolf still had too much control to even think of slowing down or ease up on hits. Mark was tiring, though, and Stiles pushed through what he hoped was the long stretch. 

 

He didn't need to just win the fight—he needed Mark to submit—so he needed to hurry up and finish it, before he ran out of strength. He also needed to do it before Mark's human side came all the way back to the surface, because he knew that the man would probably end up giving up the fight then and there. If he did that, it would be because he didn't see Stiles as an equal and didn't want to harm the human any more, which would fix nothing. He would need to make sure Mark's wolf submitted. 

 

He needed the upper hand again, and to get that, he needed to get Mark back on the ground. Stiles watched his every movement, waiting for his opening. It came in the form of a drop of blood sliding easily through his glistening sweat on his forehead and finding its way into the wolf's eye. Mark blinked to try to clear it away and Stiles shot forward once more. Mark’s back slammed into the ground so hard the air was audibly knocked from his lungs and Stiles was already scrambling to sit up and force the wolf's arms under his knees so he could get him pinned. 

 

Stiles heard a loud cavalier shout from somewhere off to the side that sounded an awful lot like Laura, which meant that his audience had likely grown without him knowing. 

 

A ferocious and enraged growl tore from Mark's chest when Stiles shifted forward to put all of his weight on Mark's forearms, thighs carefully just out of reach of the claws. Mark's head lifted and strained against the hold as he snapped his terrifying jaws at Stiles and his eyes burned bright, pupils dilated wide enough to leave only a small ring of gold around them. Mark was kicking his legs against the ground and trying to buck Stiles off, but he was situated to high up for him to reach or get a leg between them and kick him off. 

 

Stiles gripped the sides of Mark's head in both hands and forced it back against the ground several times like he was trying to part the hard earth with the man's skull. Mark roared in his grasp and fought harder against his hold. Stiles knew he wouldn’t be able to hold the other down for long. He smashed the back of Mark's head down on the ground a few more times before laying several punches to his face. 

 

"Submit." Stiles growled a few inches from his face. His fingers were filling with ice and his heart was going to beat right through his chest as it hammered his ribs. Mark's only response was to snarl and wretch his head out of his grip. Stiles hit him again and again, pressing a bruised and bloody hand down hard on the wolf's neck. 

 

"Submit!" He ordered again, voice rough and thick with a storm of authority and power. Despite the rage he'd wielded earlier, there was no anger in his tone anymore. It was firm and commanding, demanding his obedience, not his pain. His only goal was to pin Mark and get his wolf to submit. This was not a fight of anger or the wish to kill the other, it was a sorting of rank and Stiles' clear order let everyone who might be witnessing the fight know that. 

 

Mark's wolf seemed to pick up on it as well, because his eyes flashed brighter and he continued to fight Stiles, even though he was growing weaker by the moment. 

 

Stiles' hand around Mark's throat curled tighter and his nails dug into the flesh. He hadn't cut off Mark's air supply, but his nails—though human and not as sharp as Mark's claws—would start to draw blood and was a clear threat. And to drive it all home, Stiles let go of Mark's short hair and wrapped the other hand around his throat. Stiles kept a brutal grip on the struggling man below him as he leant down so that their faces were only inches apart and his sharp honey eyes bore into his. That time, he didn't shout, he didn't hit him again or smash his skull against the ground. His voice was low and cold, deadly. 

 

"Submit." Mark stilled beneath him, eyes still glowing in the late afternoon light. Mark was heaving his breaths, and so was Stiles, but neither dared look away or blink. The seconds dragged on and not a single sound could be heard from the wolves around them. Everything was still. For a while, Stiles wondered if maybe Mark was just waiting him out to regain his strength and put up a better fight. 

 

And then . . . the wolf's eyelids began to droop, his breathing slowed down, and ever so slowly, his chin tilted up and back. When he stopped moving, his long pale throat was stretched taut, bared for him. Mark was submitting. Golden eyes watching him carefully through heavy lids, waiting. Stiles didn’t move for a long time, instinct driving him to make it clear to his wolf that he had submitted and was at Stiles' mercy. 

 

Then, slowly, he loosened his grip around Mark's throat, which was scratched and bruised from his hands and only getting darker instead of fading. Never breaking his gaze with the wolf, Stiles pushed off the ground so that he could stand. His feet were planted just below Mark's elbows where his arms lay limp. Stiles stood over him and watched the man's wolf slowly accept that it had lost the fight, fiery gold fading back to a flat coal-black. 

 

Stiles was just watching the last traces of Mark's wolf retreat when he heard a sharp inhale that immediately transformed into a murderous growl. His head whipped up just as Talia had crossed the space and wrapped a restraining arm across Derek's chest as he beta shifted and was fighting to get at Mark, who was still lying flat against the ground, covered in bruises and drying blood. Stiles bent down, grabbed the front of Mark's shirt and hauled the man to his feet so he wouldn't end up with his throat torn out by the wolf who was rapidly losing control. 

 

Talia tried to force Derek back and was barking at him that things were fine and he needed to calm down. However, Derek didn't seem to hear a thing as he dropped down and burst into full-shift with an explosive power. The other wolves scrambled back so as not to get into the wolf's way. Stiles stepped towards Derek so that he could intercept the huge black wolf before it could sink its teeth into the battered Mark. 

 

Not a second later, Talia lost her grip on her son—her Alpha voice having no effect on the out of control wolf—and Derek made a move towards Mark. However, Stiles crouched down to brace himself and slammed into the wolf before he could reach the other. Stiles didn't knock him over, but he did halt his advance long enough to wrap his arms tightly around the wolf's neck and hold him as tightly as he could while kneeling before the beast. Stiles could hear shouts from the pack telling him to get away and that it was too dangerous, but he ignored it. 

 

Derek made a move to force his way past Stiles, but he just squeezed his vice-like hold tighter. Instead of snapping at Stiles or clawing his exposed stomach to get him off, the wolf stopped pushing before he ended up knocking Stiles over. Stiles tangled his hands in Derek's soft, thick fur and spoke to the wolf in low, soothing tones. He didn't really think about what came out of his mouth, just knew that he had to distract Derek and calm him down before he ended up killing someone. 

 

He was muttering a string of things like 'Derek' and 'it's okay' and 'I'm fine' over and over again. All the while, he began combing his long fingers through Derek's fur, blunt nails lightly scraping down his neck and back. Derek was still growling at Mark from over his shoulder and snapping threateningly at the man every once in a while, but never did he direct it toward Stiles. Stiles' fingers tugged at Derek's dark coat, not hard enough to hurt but enough to hopefully ground Derek and redirect his attention to something else. 

 

His words and ministrations kept the wolf from leaving his hold, but it wasn't enough to snuff out the growls in Derek's throat. It seemed his current words weren't enough, so he tried a slightly different approach. After a pause, Stiles began to murmur things like 'he submitted, Derek' and 'I won' and 'we fought and I proved myself, I beat him.' 

 

He continued to grip the beast tight in his arms. Stiles' veins were still pumping with the thick flood of power and victory. Something that came with pack bonds—even tentative ones—was that sometimes Stiles had instincts and urges like a wolf would. Which was likely why his fight for rank with Mark seemed to now have an overwhelming physical effect on him. Stiles was thrumming with a low, intoxicating current of energy and as he knelt there, enraged wolf in his arms, he felt the strange and slowly growing urge to turn his face to the side and sink his teeth into Derek's muscled neck. 

 

It wasn't exactly that he wanted to fight rank with Derek too or anything—from what he could tell, Mark was probably ranked somewhere just below Greg, Talia's second, so it stood to reason that Stiles might now technically outrank Derek—more like he wanted to take up all of Derek's attention and pull him into a play-fight. He wanted to celebrate. Stiles closed his eyes and buried his face into Derek's neck sucking in deep breaths as his gums itched with the odd urge and he had to clamp his teeth down on his lips to keep himself from doing something ridiculous, like pressing blunt teeth to the spot just behind the wolf's jaw. 

 

The fur around his face grew hot with his own breath and the low growl next to his ear that rolled like thunder in Derek's chest started to fade away and Stiles could feel Derek starting to become more aware of his presence as he tilted his snout towards the human to drag in his scent. Derek's hindquarters lowered to a sit so that it was a bit easier for Stiles to wrap his arms around him and card his fingers through his fur. 

 

Stiles' eyes slipped open after a while, dragging in a few deep lung-fills as he came down from the fog in his mind and could think more clearly. Before leaning back, he turned so he could speak quietly in in Derek's ear. 

 

"Come on Derek, let's go back inside." Stiles pulled back and stood, one hand still holding onto Derek's fur in case the other made a move towards Mark again. 

 

Thankfully, when he stood, Derek did as well and with one last warning growl under his breath for Mark, he turned away and started leading Stiles back towards the house. The rest of the pack were watching them in silence, but the only one he bothered to look at was the Alpha. When he met her gaze, he found an unexpected mix of thoughtful and relieved. She stepped aside when they approached and as they walked past, Stiles briefly felt a warm hand on his shoulder, giving it a brief and reassuring squeeze before slipping away. 

 

Inside, there were even more members of the pack, gathered around the windows that looked into the back yard. Among them, Stiles caught sight of Cora as he passed. The young wolf flashed him a proud and excited twist of her lips and he thinks it might be the first time he'd seen the girl smile. 

 

Hand still buried in fur, Stiles allowed himself be led through the house and up the stairs until they reached the stairs to the attic. Stiles expected the wolf to continue to follow him all the way up to his room, but when he started to ascend, he heard the soft clicking of claws on wood moving away from him. Stiles shook his head, only half worried that the wolf might go right back down stairs to attack Mark again. The fight had been exhausting, especially after the panic attack before-hand and the emotional rollercoaster of encountering his long-dead mother in the super market. 

 

Stiles trudged up the stairs, body beginning to throb all over. His head was pounding, his jaw ached and the skin over it and around his eye felt hot and abused. His mouth tasted of blood vaguely and one swipe of his tongue over his dry lips told him that his bottom one was split. His hands felt like he'd gotten in a fist fight with a slab of concrete. His stomach was tense with pain and probably already forming bruises. His ribs protested when he collapsed backwards on his bed, but he could tell none had been cracked or breathing would be a lot harder. His body was a mess, and he felt like he was made of Paper Mache in the middle of a rain storm, but despite the state of his body, he felt a thrilling sense of victory. 

 

Just then, he heard footsteps hurrying up the stairs and lifted his head just long enough to see Derek approaching with hastily thrown on sweatpants and a T-shirt with a plastic white box in his hands. He was human again, so Stiles allowed his head to fall back against his pillows. His eyes trailed after the younger boy as he approached with a concerned set to his furrowed brows, lips in a tight line. 

 

Derek knelt next to his bed and started rustling through the box on the floor but he didn't look away from Derek's face. Eventually the younger boy turned back to him, hands full of bandage rolls, alcohol wipes, and antibiotic ointment. Without a word, Derek took Stiles' hand in his and put all of his focus into cleaning the bloody scrapes over his knuckles. Stiles didn’t so much as blink when the alcohol wipes touched his cuts and wiped away dirt and dried blood. 

 

Once both hands were cleaned, Derek slathered them with ointment and gingerly began to wrap the clean white bandaging around Stiles' long-fingered hands. Derek treated his hands like they were made of paper-thin glass and had not just been used to force one of the pack's best fighters into submission. 

 

The wolf moved on from there, slowly cleaning and bandaging any wounds he could see. Stiles just laid there and watched him, entranced by the boy. When he had bandaged all he could, Derek's large hands moved towards the hem of Stiles' shirt before stilling and looking at Stiles for the first time. 

 

"Can I? . . ." The question was spoken so quietly that it almost went unheard. Stiles looked at him for a long time, expression open but blank, like all the thoughts in his head were being silent. Then, he sat up on the bed for a moment to grab the hem of his shirt and pull it over his head. He caught sight of a splash of red and skin that was already turning purple in spots and would eventually become a nasty set of bruises. He'd had much worse before, though. Honestly, it was nothing compared to the state he was in after being kidnapped by Gerard, back then he had been taken to the hospital and could hardly stand on his own for days. 

 

After a few long beats, Derek carefully reached out rested one large hand on his abdomen between his side and his navel, while the other settled over his ribs. Looking down, Stiles looked small under Derek's hands as they splayed over the worst of the forming bruises. Derek's hands were warm against his already heated skin and his skin was buzzing with the contact. Stiles watched as black veins began to thread their way over his hands and up his forearms. Stiles' pain bled away and he blinked lazily as his exhaustion caught up with him and he settled more fully back against his bed. 

 

Stiles was drifting at the edge of sleep when he felt Derek's hand brush lightly over his pain-free skin in a way that sent cool shivers through his center. 

 

"I'll be right back." Derek breathed just hardly above a whisper as he looked down at the bruised boy who was likely asleep already. 

 

As quietly as he could, Derek got up from the floor beside Stiles' bed and moved on bare feet back towards the stairs. Intent on retrieving some food and water for when Stiles woke up as he would likely miss dinner if he fell asleep then. Derek tensed when he heard another heartbeat at the bottom of the stairs. He may be more in control of himself than he'd been before, but if he had to see Mark again so soon after having don't that to Stiles—who had been nothing but calm, quiet, and gentle while living with them—then he really didn't know if he could keep himself from attacking the other wolf. 

 

However, at the bottom of the stairs wasn't Mark, but his mom. Derek paused and didn't know whether to duck his head for his outburst earlier, or run away with his tail between his legs, or ask the Alpha what the hell she was thinking allowing Mark and Stiles to fight! Derek quickly clamped down on that last, rampant thought as he faced his mother. 

 

Talia scrutinized his face for what felt like forever, expression unreadable and arms crossed over her chest. Derek wasn't sure what she would say, so he kept his shoulders squared and didn't let his head drop as he met her gaze. Sure, he'd lost control, but he wasn't ashamed of his need to protect Stiles back there. 

 

The Alpha's lips quirked into a half-smirk, putting a halt to the writhing tension in his gut at the thought of possibly having to take a side that wasn't his mom's for once. 

 

"How's Stiles?" She finally asked, letting her arms drop to her sides. Derek let the air whoosh out of his lungs and sagged a little, glancing over at the closed door next to him. 

 

"Bruised and pretty scraped up, but otherwise he'll be okay." Derek answered, still feeling a low current of anger towards his Alpha for allowing the fight to happen in the first place. However, before he could bring it up and ask just what she'd been thinking, Talia cut him off and her words left his mind going blank. 

 

"It's okay, you know. You should be well aware by now that I will always love you no matter what. If you wanted to pursue a relationship with Stiles, your father and I would whole-heartedly support you, of course. I just don't want you or Stiles to think you can't or that you have to hide it from us. Stiles is a lovely young man and he has shown time and time again that he is very intelligent and capable. You'll be sixteen in a month your father and I have never tried to dissuade you from dating, that doesn't change just because Stiles is male." Talia assured, settling a comforting hand on his shoulder to convey her sincerity. 

 

"D-dating?!" Derek practically squeaked, eyes going wide. His mom thought he wanted to date Stiles? 

 

Derek's mind spun in dizzying circles as he tried to comprehend what she'd just said. She was-- . . . She was giving him her blessing to date Stiles! Derek's throat went dry at that thought. He didn't like Stiles like that, right? 

 

He thought Stiles was cool, funny, mature, smart, attractive—okay, so he might idolize the older boy but that didn't necessarily mean he wanted to be with Stiles. Derek's mind suddenly pulled up the still recent memory of Stiles pulling his shirt over his head and the soft glide of his mole-dotted skin under his hands. His thoughts conjured up images of Stiles' eyes in the warm flickering light of the fire, of little curves to his soft pink lips when Derek said something ridiculous, of an adorable upturned nose. His memories supplied him with the scent of honey and hazelnut, and of moments where he'd thought about how amazing Stiles was, how beautiful and graceful he looked. He thought about how he spent every spare moment with the older boy because he practically ached when Stiles wasn't around. 

 

He thought about how almost every single night since Stiles had come to live with them, without fail, Derek had visited him in the middle of the night and slept by his side. He thought of how many times he'd seen Stiles scared, anguished, and broken in the youngest hours of the morning and how he wanted to always protect Stiles from his own mind and whatever haunted him. How, each night, he made another vow to keep Stiles safe and far away from anything that could possibly hurt him again. 

 

Shit, he was so far gone and he hadn't even realized it! 

 

Derek had never contemplated the fact that he might not be straight, but the possibility really didn't faze him now. Because, he liked Stiles and that felt so much bigger and more important than whether or not he might be attracted to someone else of the same gender. 

 

He had a lot to think about, but he also had the boy he was apparently smitten with needing his company and care, so Derek broke out of the encasing of his thoughts and looked back up at his mother. 

 

"T-thanks mom." He stuttered, voice hushed. The Alpha gave him a warm smile and he hurried away before she could bring up more revelations about himself even he hadn't known about. 

 

His wolf was practically preening, but Derek still had some things to sort through so that he didn't turn tomato red the next time he had to face Stiles. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Things changed after the fight. Things changed drastically. Of course the biggest and most immediate change came from Mark. The very next day following the fight, Stiles—still a bit black and blue but otherwise unbothered—had run into Mark on his way to breakfast. 

 

Derek was beside him since the worry-wart-wolf had decided he need to play nurse and stayed with Stiles the whole night in his human form to make sure he was okay and he didn’t feel a lick of pain. So, the younger boy inevitably became tense and growly when he caught sight of Mark, but Stiles ignored him. 

 

Mark had healed over the course of the night, so Stiles was the only one left with bruises, but the older man had also never looked so calm around Stiles. Mark didn’t approach him and apologize for attacking him—something Derek was decidedly sour about—but Stiles hadn’t expected him to. All Mark did when he saw him was dip his head in an acknowledging nod that was more amiable than any of their previous interactions over the last month and a half. Mark didn’t suddenly turn into a ray of chatty sunshine, but for people like him and Stiles, silently cohabitating was certainly an olive branch for them. 

 

Needless to say, Stiles would no longer have a warden. 

 

The other change came from the rest of the pack. Before, Stiles had felt himself be slowly integrated into the pack. They had accepted him, but accepting him was a very different thing from respecting him. He had been right to believe that Mark held significant rank in the pack, but even beyond that, the fact the Stiles was human and had fought and won against a wolf did a lot in garnering the others' admiration. 

 

It also helped his character that the way he fought confirmed he wasn’t a hunter trying to sneak into the pack. He didn’t fight like a human trained by humans to take down wolves. He had known quite well the way Allison fought—the way Chris had fought. They used martial arts, fighting techniques that had been learned over the course of years. Stiles didn’t have formal training except for a few self-defense classes his dad had allowed him to take back when the worlds monsters for him were all human. He learned to fight by fighting hands on with wolves. It was clear in how he had handled Mark. 

 

So, not only did the pack trust him more, but he had undoubtedly proved himself. 

 

He was included in conversations more; even if they didn’t expect him to input anything, they knew he was listening. The older wolves also seemed to finally be comfortable enough with Stiles to treat him as they would any other pack member and strengthen pack bonds with small, casual touches in passing. It wasn’t nearly as much as they did with the other wolves, Stiles felt that it was more out of consideration for him and what he was comfortable with than them not wanting to. Stiles was grateful, physical contact sometimes made him uneasy and tense, so he was glad it wouldn’t be a constant onslaught. 

 

The pups weren’t immediately ushered out of the room when he walked by and a few of them even sought him out, tugging on his shirt and hanging off of his limbs like he was a tree—a grumpy but ultimately harmless tree they wanted to play with. Cora hadn’t been happy to see the other kids vying for his attention and had resorted to petty pranks, little scuffles that the girl always won, and growls any time another wolf came near when she was with Stiles. It was endearing in a way, to see how protective she was of him and how little she tolerated 'sharing Stiles' with anyone. 

 

Anyone except Derek, that is. Oddly enough, the only person she didn’t get territorial around was her older brother. She'd even tried to bite Laura when the girl had apparently taken an interest in Stiles after seeing him fight Mark and had placed a hand on his arm and gave him a look that was neither casual nor platonic. Cora had nearly taken said hand off when she saw what was happening and how uncomfortable Stiles was. Stiles may or may not have seen Derek slipping the girl a few brownies later that day for it. 

 

Derek had also started to act differently towards Stiles after the fight. Not in the sense that he treated Stiles differently, really. More like he was a bit more physical—which Stiles attributed to the other pack members warming up to him—and was less like a lost puppy and more like a guard dog. Also, Derek still visited Stiles at night in full-shift, but some nights he came in his human form to comfort Stiles or keep him company. It was surprisingly more . . . intimate when he was in human form. Instead of a hulking mass of fur to hold onto as he came down from a night terror, he was pulled into Derek's lap and cradled close, with a hand on the back of his head pressing his face in a broad shoulder as the other soothed down his back and comforting words were rambled mindlessly into his ear. 

 

In his wolf form, Derek couldn’t talk or hold him. In his wolf form, apart from his eyes and the occasional noise, Stiles couldn’t see how much his state effected Derek. In his wolf form, Stiles was pulled so close he could feel the other’s heart thumping against his chest. 

 

When Stiles had calmed down enough, Derek would hoist him up into his arms and carry the older boy back over to his bed. And each time, Derek would slide in between the sheets with him and pull him close again. Sometimes Stiles fell asleep like that—heavy, warm, and dreamless—and sometimes he startled awake, staring into the darkness and soaking in Derek's presence. 

 

In the light of day, Derek always let Stiles go back to his usual strong self without a word or excessive coddling. Derek understood that what happened in the night was not who he was all the time. 

 

He didn’t understand it. How a boy who was younger than him and hadn’t lived through a fraction of the horrors he had, could know so intuitively what Stiles needed—even better than Stiles himself knew sometimes. After only two months with the Hales and with Derek, Stiles could feel himself healing. There was still scar tissue everywhere, but the still bleeding wounds were beginning to clot each time he woke up scared but not alone, each time he opened his eyes to morning light, a heavy arm thrown over his shoulders, and stale but warm breath in his face. 

 

Stiles held no illusions about it just being the slowly growing pack bonds that were making him better. Without Derek, without his constant chatter and too-bright disposition, Stiles wouldn’t have come nearly as far. Stiles wouldn’t be biting back smiles as Derek found him immediately after school and was already launching into every little thing that had happened since the moment he'd left before he'd even slid his backpack off. He wouldn’t be pulling out his mom's beloved chocolate-chip cookie recipe that he hadn’t dared try to make since her passing, just so he could reward Cora for doing amazing on her math test. He wouldn’t be able to handle flicking through the photos saved on his phone of him and his old pack, of his dad. And he certainly wouldn’t be considering approaching Talia and telling her he'd like to officially join the pack. 

 

Because of Derek, Stiles could sleep again—despite the nightmares—because he knew someone would be there to bring him back when he woke up. Because of him he could breathe again! Because of Derek, Stiles could finally see past tomorrow and envision a future for himself; with the pack. 

 

                     

 

Sometimes, Stiles was reminded of how little he really knew about werewolves and the super natural world in general. With his old pack, they didn't celebrate the new moon, full moons were spent trying to contain their inner beasts, and their lessons on the supernatural consisted of 'here's how you kill this' and 'pack is important.' So, one could imagine Stiles' confusion and surprise when he was informed of the Spring Union. A pretty and vague title for what was essentially speed-dating for werewolves. 

 

Everybody around the pack seemed to have a different definition for what it was. 

 

Talia explained to him that once a year, multiple packs would come together to promote "peace, unity, and the betterment and prosperity of were-creatures everywhere" which just happened to include the attendance of single, unmated pack members in attendance in the hopes that they might find a mate from another pack and keep packs from stagnating or having to always find a human mate and reveal their true nature in the hopes that they'll stay. Packs couldn't grow without either pups or people being added to the pack. Also, when a person moved from one pack to another, it helped build relationships and good faith between packs. Talia assured him that no one was made to do anything they didn't want to and sometimes nothing came out of the gatherings except a few days of good food and nice conversation. 

 

Laura told him it was just guise for hookups. 

 

Mark gruffly stated it was necessary to build a pack's numbers and make it even stronger. 

 

A few of the older woman in the pack found it romantic and exciting. 

 

Gloria saw it as an opportunity for a power play by showing the other packs how stable and self-sufficient they were. Stiles was fairly sure he heard her mumble something about proving no pack eats better than they do. 

 

Derek thought that they were ridiculous, boring, too riddled with etiquette and pack politics. Apparently, the young wolf had been pestered relentlessly during the Spring Union in the past. Derek might not be next in line for Alpha, but he was the Alpha's only son and the next Alpha's brother, no matter what he would hold a lot of power and rank in the future. He also seemed to be something of a favorite amongst the younger, female population of other packs. Stiles pitied the wolf. Each year, as Derek got older and was now—by custom—allowed to choose a mate, his 'suitors' would only grow more persistent. 

 

Stiles wasn't really interested in the happenings of the Spring Union, he was far more concerned with preparations. Because, that year the Union would be held on the Hale territory and they would be expected to host several packs. Gloria may no longer despise him, but she still put him to work, especially now that she had seen his work over the past two months and knew he was capable and competent. He didn't doubt that he and Gloria would be at the forefront of all preparations and the whole thing was sounding more and more like a headache as he listened. 

 

Thankfully, they wouldn't be staying in the house with them. The packs would all camp out on in the preserve. Surprisingly, it was Gloria that had given him the full comprehensive break down of the Spring Union. The packs would arrive—a few that were closest to the Hale territory and one or two from much further away—and they would welcome the packs with a supper before they went and set up their camps. The entire packs wouldn't be coming, just the Alpha, any members who were unmated and of a reasonable age (after puberty, since it was good for the younger ones to mingle, but they of course weren't allowed to mate until they had reached maturity), and a selected few to protect and watch over them. 

 

Then, the following day would consist of everyone being left to their own devices, either staying with their pack or getting to know someone new. Then, that night was the official start of the Spring Union. They would go out to the clearing where they usually held the new moon gatherings, and like the gatherings, there would be a fire, food, music, entertainment, and a whole lot of mingling. The first day of the Union was reserved for getting to know everyone, seeing who you connected with and who you didn't. Then, on the second night, they would gather once more in the clearing and it would be set up much the same—food, drink, music, talking—but at some point during the evening, unmated pack members had the opportunity to approach someone they wanted to have as their mate and make their offering. 

 

Now, if that didn't sound old-fashioned and primitive enough there was also, the offering itself. Apparently, instead of just asking a person if they were interested in dating or courting or whatever, the pack members would show their interest in someone by giving them a pelt. Yeah, a pelt. As in the fur from an animal it had hunted down and killed. Stiles wasn't sure if all of the pack members did that, considering packs didn’t only consist of wolves and sometimes had humans or even other creatures—though rare. It seemed much more of a wolf kind of thing to do. 

 

Anyways, the one offered the pelt could either accept it and wear it—Gloria assured him that the pelts were incorporated into clothing and usually weren't just folded lengths of fur—or politely decline. If accepted, then those two would become Prospected-Mates and arrangements would be made to ensure they could develop their relationship if they were from different packs. 

 

Stiles didn't really care for the logistics of it all. Though the traditions were interesting to learn about, his immediate focus was on the fact that he would have to help prepare food for several packs for three straight nights. He suddenly wished Cora was old enough to attend the Union so she could do what she usually did with her own pack and growl to keep anyone from trying to rope Stiles into small talk. Stiles felt like he was about to be the underpaid waiter at an event where everyone was drunk and wanted to tell him their 'summer in Guam.' 

 

After a week under Gloria's thumb to make sure everything was perfect, the packs were due to arrive. Five packs in total, three within a few hours' drive, and two from out of state. Stiles was busy with his duties, so he didn't really see them when they arrived, just occasionally caught a glimpse of an Alpha entering the house to greet Talia before returning to their packs to wait until dinner. 

 

Although most of the pack was excited to have the other packs visiting, some were on edge with the newcomers. Unsurprisingly, Mark was one of them. Stiles supposed he was too, though he was thoroughly distracted by his duties. For the past two months—and maybe even a bit longer than that—his life had revolved around the pack and for many reasons, they were important to him. He would not tolerate any sort of threat towards the pack and not just because of what it might lead to in the future, but because he was—slowly—beginning to care about them. They were no longer obituaries in the local paper or ghost stories told by the few people who they left behind. They were flesh and blood, they had personalities, children, annoying quirks and a tendency to steal bits of the food he was trying to cook. 

 

Stiles had always protected his own. It's just, the definition of 'his own' had shifted—expanded. 

 

Which is why, when it was finally time for dinner, Stiles chose to sit with those he felt needed to be protected first. They couldn't eat dinner in the dining room as they usually did, since there were so many people. Instead, they set up a bunch of tables in the back-yard with plenty of warm, outdoor lights situated around them. Stiles had helped bring out the food while people were beginning to sit down. As soon as he was done, though, Stiles made his way over to the table where all of the rowdy pups were and sat down right next to Cora. 

 

The wolf who usually sat with the kids—Darla, who was also taught the younger ones—sent him a strange look but said nothing as he positioned himself at the end of the table, between the children and all the other wolves. Cora just looked slightly pleased to have him sitting with her. A moment later, his other side was taken up by Derek, who didn't look curious at all about Stiles' choice of seating. Actually, he looked . . . amused, and proud? Stiles shook his head, knowing it was a futile effort trying to figure out what motivated Derek to do any of the things he did. 

 

Stiles' seat made it so that his back was to everyone else, since the kids' table was all the way at the back, but he didn't care. Unlike a certain Alpha-to-be and several other eligible wolves in their pack, Stiles wasn't eyeing up every new face to determine who was the best catch. Stiles was just the human who cooked, cleaned, gardened, sometimes fixed cars, and was ready at the drop of a hat to take down any wolf that looked at the pups wrong. Otherwise, he was just another fly on the wall. Besides, Derek didn't seem too curious either, so Stiles didn't over think it. 

 

Talia was sat at a table with the other Alphas and their spouses. Once everyone had taken a seat, she stood up and made a grand speech about unity cooperation and all that junk. It was a rousing speech, truly, but Stiles was more concerned with the pup a few seats down that was trying to see how many biscuits he could shove into his pudgy little cheeks like a hamster. Stiles heard a small cough from the boy and glared the kid down as he continued to press another into his mouth. He was going to end up choking himself. Darla had yet to notice. 

 

Heaving a put-upon sigh, Stiles stood from his seat and walked around to loom over the pup. As if on que, a moment later, a piece of biscuit got lodged in his throat and he made a choking sound a second later. Firmly, but not so hard as to hurt the kid, Stiles gave him a good whap on the back and a gooey, but almost completely intact biscuit came tumbling out of his mouth. Once he could breathe, Stiles crouched down next to him as he looked over with glimmering wide blue eyes. 

 

"One at a time, okay?" Stiles asserted, voice steely. The pup nodded vigorously and started chewing what was left in his mouth. Stiles huffed in a shadow of a laugh and ruffled the boy's hair as he stood. "Brat." He muttered under his breath as he moved back to his seat. 

 

Derek was fighting a grin when Stiles sat back down and so he pointedly ignored him. The rest of the dinner went off without a hitch and soon, the other packs were getting up, thanking Talia for the wonderful meal, and retreating to the woods. Stiles cleaned up with the others and prepared himself for the two days on festivity to come. 

 

                     

 

Stiles adjusted his grip on the long axe in his hand, the grip having slipped in his hand a bit from the sweat that was steadily drawn to the surface by both the beaming sun above and the stacks of fire wood he'd already chopped. He'd wished he had been warned before-hand that five packs out in the woods would burn through so much wood so quickly. Bringing the axe back, Stiles heaved it over his head and brought it down hard on the wood, cleaving it in half and causing the pieces to tumble to the sides. 

 

He cut five more pieces in succession before sweat started to sting his eyes and he had to stop for a moment. Breathing still roughly from exertion. Stiles lifted the hem of his shirt up to wipe his eyes with the part of the fabric that wasn't damp yet. As his face disappeared behind the white fabric of his T-shirt, Stiles heard the shocked and appreciative murmur and tittering from not far off. Stiles dropped his shirt and looked up to find a group of unfamiliar wolves roughly his age—some older, some younger—crowded at the edge of the forest, some half hidden behind trees and all of them were looking right at Stiles. 

 

A pair of girls with red and brown hair turned to each other when he looked at them and began to mutter something frantically to the other with excited grins on their faces. Frowning, looked around him to see if maybe something else had caught their attention, but . . . no, there was nothing else around him. Unless they were all weirdly fascinated by firewood? 

 

Shaking his head, Stiles ignored them and continued with his duties. 

 

Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Stiles split wood. A drop of sweat journeyed down through the valley of his spine. Each breath of humid air curled in vapors and settled heavily in his lungs. The heat of the sun pressed down on the back of his neck like a firm hand and damp material dragged against his skin. 

 

A piece of wood gave too easily and his axe imbedded itself in to the flat surface of the sawed-off stump below. Stiles frowned and lifted one leg to settled his foot against the stump to gain leverage. He tuned out the sharp exhale and breathless giggle in the distance as he gave one, two hard pulls before the axe head came free. 

 

He only had a few quarter cuts of wood left to cut through when he heard the back door open and turned to see Derek walking out. Was it already time for him to be back from school? Stiles could see the boy was making his way right for him so he turned around to keep chopping while the other approached. 

 

He heard Derek's footsteps stop behind him but he didn't say anything so Stiles paused to give the younger his attention. For a long while, Derek didn't say anything, just kept staring at him. Did he smell or something? Probably. 

 

There was a faint murmur of voices behind Stiles and he saw Derek's gaze flick over his shoulder and a deep frown settled on his angular features, making him look a lot more like the Derek Stiles knew in his own time (though, he probably knew the younger Derek far better than that one). 

 

"I think Gloria wanted you to help her out with something in the kitchen." Derek muttered without looking away from over his shoulder. Glancing back at the small bit he had left to chop, he shrugged inwardly. He'd have time to finish it later. Stiles nodded and headed for the back door, Derek looming behind him like a shadow, or a shield. 

 

                    

 

Stiles had attended two new moon gathering out in the woods so far, which was his only frame of reference for what the Spring Union might be like. However, it really didn't hold a candle to the Union. The bonfire was roaring loud and tall, but additional light had been brought out to the clearing. All around were tall, portable outdoor lights (many more than were used for dinner the previous night) and more lights were strung overhead, tied to the tops of the outdoor lights to hang over them like a ceiling with thick ribbons of rich, velvety black night draped between them. 

 

A long row of tables brimming with food and drinks on the other side of the bon fire. And instead of a few wolves with instruments to fill the silence, there was now a couple of speakers and constant stream of music with low base and entrancing melodies that coaxed the listener in to dance with soft, seductive fingers. The base hummed in his veins and burned low behind his navel like alcohol, making his bones feel loose and his eyes heavy. 

 

Out in the middle of the woods with dim lighting and the intoxicating music made it feel less like an event with etiquette and rules and more like a call to shed your skin and sink your teeth deep into temptation. Stiles could see now why Laura saw it as something that encouraged them to 'hook up' as she put it. 

 

The ones who were there to watch over everyone, keep the peace, and stop anyone from doing something stupid were gathered by the tables of food, separating themselves and giving the unmated distance and a bit of privacy. Stiles carried the last jug of juice over to the table and set it down amongst the others. Then, crossing his arms over his chest, Stiles took up a spot on the other side of the drink table, watching the crowd for any misconduct. 

 

Though there weren't that many in the Hale pack that were both unmated and under eighteen, Stiles would still keep a sharp eye on everyone from the pack out there. He didn't know how often things got out of hand at these types of events, but he wouldn't let anything slip by him. 

 

Stiles was eyeing—perhaps glowering was a better descriptor—a group of attractive young wolves that Laura had surrounded herself with like some sort of entourage, when he heard someone step up beside him. He glanced over and found himself stood next to Deaton, of all people. The man had an unassuming smile on his lips. 

 

"You know, technically this is for you as well." Deaton stated pointedly, not looking at him. Stiles' brow clinched and he looked out at the festivities around him. 

 

"I'm not an official member of the Hale Pack yet, though." It came out more as a question than a statement. A puff of mirth bubbled from the older man's lips. 

 

"You've been with us for over two months now, Stiles. You've established yourself here, you have our respect, our trust. You know we would gladly take you into the pack officially if you let us. Even if you don't join us officially, we have faith in you enough to vouch for you here as if you were one of our own. Plus," Deaton added with a growing smirk as he turned to look at him, "You're young, unmated, and have garnered yourself quite a reputation amongst our pack by working diligently and taking down one our best fighters. Word has spread, you have become a very anticipated attendant to the other packs." Deaton nodded his head towards the crowd before them. 

 

Stiles turned to look and sure enough, now that he was searching for it, he found quite a few intrigued and heavy gazes trained on him. With all the times he's spent on preparing for the event, it hadn't crossed his mind once that he would be expected to participate. Though, he'd already been assured that nothing had to come of the Spring Union, so if anything, it would just be a nuisance but ultimately over in two days and things would return to normal. With a sigh that dripped weightily from his lips like syrup, Stiles donned a glare that practically had fangs and claws of its own, and reluctantly wandered out into the crowd—but not before taking the liberty to pour himself a drink, nothing strong, just something to keep near his mouth so he didn't have to talk to anyone. 

 

Several people pounced on him the moment he left the safety of the drink table, pulling him into introductions that he curtly mumbled his way through. Perhaps a few years ago, it would have been Stiles' wet-dream-come-true to have attractive young people eyeing him like their gazes could be a physical touch that glided enticingly down his body. Maybe he would have reveled in being the center of attention and have it been because he was desirable and not because he was the outlier in a sea of his peers. 

 

Now, however, he was stepping through the circle of people around him while they were speaking mid-sentence to made a straight line for Derek, who had just walked through the trees. Derek had also looked immensely relieved the moment he saw Stiles. And so, the two stuck together like magnets as the night wore on, consumed in their own world that kept them in a bubble, warding off any who felt the urge to approach. 

 

Stiles felt himself relax for the first time that night while in Derek's presence, his hulking frame like a brick wall between him and everyone else. They talked and joked and quietly made humorous but probably rude comments about the others that were there. At one-point Stiles slipped casually over to the table and made Derek and himself drinks—though, he's sure Talia noticed but didn't say anything because Stiles might indulge Derek more than anyone else, but he would never let her son get out of control or get hurt. In that situation, Stiles was sort of like the parent that allowed their kid to have a flute of champagne at a wedding, but nothing more. 

 

Stiles returned with their drinks and watched with unrestrained amusement as the wolf took a tentative sip of his and promptly grimaced, snorting as the wolf made a noise and looked like he had sucked on a lemon. Chuckling, Stiles lifted his own drink to his lips—one that was safe for a human like himself and wouldn't burn a hole through his esophagus—took a sip without so much as a flicker of distaste and ran his smooth tongue over his lips to catch the taste of something sweet and dangerously rich. He saw Derek's eyes follow the path of his tongue and something hot curled in his gut that had nothing to do with his drink. 

 

Derek then brazenly took another large gulp of his drink and swallowed it quickly. He was rather obviously trying to mask his dislike for the contents of his cup and look as smooth as Stiles while drinking. Stiles couldn't help the fondness filling his chest at the sight. 

 

Stood off to the side, they continued to soak in each other's company and every once in a while, Stiles would sneak them more drinks until their limbs were loose, their bellies full of warmth, and their coordination a little skewed. Stiles allowed himself to drink, but his tolerance was much higher than Derek's, so he was content to know he could keep an eye on the boy and take care of him when it came time to leave. 

 

As a silent apology and thank-you to Talia for letting him be a slightly bad influence on her son for the night, Stiles took Derek back to the house pretty early. The inebriated teen hung off Stiles like a sack of potatoes as they navigated the dark house. Since Stiles was responsible for Derek's state and he wanted to keep an eye on him, Stiles forewent trying to wrestle the clingy drunk teen into his own room and just dragged the over-grown pup up to the attic. Especially since Derek slept more in Stiles' bed than his own, so what really was the point. 

 

As Stiles was climbing into bed with the already passed out Derek, that he realized that—even though he hadn't done what was necessarily intended of him by Deaton—he'd actually had a pleasant and amusing night. 

 

One down, one to go. 

 

                     

 

With the turn of events the night before, Stiles didn't feel as bothered and tense about the last night of the Spring Union. The preparations were exactly the same as the night before, only now it was Saturday so Derek didn't have school and he could help him out with moving things. Which, aside from the obvious advantage of having a werewolf around when moving heavy objects, also had the added bonus of being highly amusing to Stiles. 

 

Derek was convinced he had a hangover, Stiles believed the other was just showing his true colors and that he wasn't actually a morning person as he liked everyone to believe. 

 

Stiles wasn't worried about the possible offerings later that night, since he hadn't exactly endeared himself to anyone the previous night, and Derek hadn't spared anyone else a glance the night before. He figured he and Derek could once again enjoy themselves apart from everyone else and maybe watch embarrassing attempts at offering and harsh rejections. Laura had assured him it could be pretty painful to watch. 

 

And that had been the plan he stuck to as the last Union night commenced. That is, until about an hour into watching a young wolf pleadingly offer his soft-looking fur gloves to a woman that was clearly older than him, Derek received a text. He pulled it out of his pocket quickly, read it with a growing excitement and anxiety in his eyes before shoving his flip-phone back into his pocket and hurriedly excusing himself, jogging off into the trees before Stiles could so much as blink. 

 

Stiles was half concerned about what had Derek running off to quickly, and half worried about the eyes he caught following Derek's retreat when he turned back around. Some gazes turned away, but others shifted to Stiles hopefully and he suddenly wished he'd followed the wolf back into the trees. 

 

Stiles turned to take refuge over behind the drinks table like before, but he found his path blocked by a wolf. A man how couldn't have been more than a year or two older than him. Tall, fit, attractive, and apparently confident enough in himself to pounce on Stiles even after he had made it rather clear he wasn't interested in scoping out a new pack along with a date. 

 

"Hello there, beautiful." The wolf practically purred as his lips stretched back to reveal nice white teeth. Dark eyes slid down his form and slowly back up with purpose. Before the other had even given him a name or even tried to start a proper conversation with Stiles, he was holding out a fur coat to Stiles as if he expected him to take it, no questions asked. The furs were only inches from his face and he wrinkled his nose at the musty and stale scent the clung to them. The pelt itself was thick and a grey color, but it also looked coarse and definitely uncomfortable. 

 

"No thanks." He deadpanned, trying to be 'polite' but there was only so much Stiles could offer in terms of social courtesy. The wolf practically shoving his furs in Stiles' face certainly needed a few lessons in it. 

 

"Don't play coy, sweetheart. We'd be a good match. I've heard some promising things about you, and I'm next in line for my pack. I can promise you'd be comfortable if you chose me. Besides," his smile twisted into something darker and more lecherous, "It's not an official mating, we can just have some fun and then back out. What do you say, don't I look like fun?” He asked, arms spreading out as if to prove just how good he looked. 

 

Something cold and mean clenched in his stomach at just the thought of touching the furs still being offered to him. Stiles had the sudden urge to see how attractive this immature wolf would think he was with a broken nose and scarlet ribbons spilling down his chin. The wilder and less familiar part of him urged him to snarl and drag his nails down the impertinent wolf's cheek. The same kind of urge that almost had him sinking his teeth into Derek after his fight with Mark. 

 

Although, that had been full of playful and mischievous intent. What he felt right then, with the unfamiliar wolf, was indignant and hostile. The same texture of emotions he felt when protecting something or someone. Except, he wasn't really sure what he was trying to protect. 

 

Either way, he was feeling almost irrationally upset and angered by the man's offer. Stiles clenched his teeth hard enough to make his jaw ache. His fingers curled into fists, but just as he was about to open his mouth and something—he didn't know what yet—the back of his neck prickled and a small shiver wormed its way down his spine just as he faintly caught the sound of someone entering the clearing over the music. He didn't know if it was his irritation or the strange spike in his instincts due to budding pack bonds that led Stiles to actually feeling Derek approaching at his back, even though he couldn't hear his footsteps in the plush grass of the clearing. 

 

"Mieczyslaw." Stiles mind went blank, hearing his name rolling thickly over Derek's tongue. 

 

Turning, Derek was stood just a few feet away, captivating green eyes cooling the breath in his lungs, he absently wondered if it would come out in vaporous clouds of white. Derek's full attention was on him, looking calm and more serious than usual. Stiles forgot about the wolf he'd been ready to physically maim because Derek was in front of him, practically glowing in the low outdoor lights, with stars dancing in his eyes, lips a flushed pink from biting them nervously, longer dark hair a tangled mess from large hands running through them, and a plume of glossy black furs clutched in his hand. 

 

Oh.  

 

Stiles looked back at Derek, who's lips had curved slightly into the barest smile and his stern dark eyebrows were tilted up a little bit and it made him look open and gentle and hopefulOh. A flurry of humming birds were released inside his gut, wiggling their way into his heart and making it flutter and pound in his chest. Oh. His mind ceased thought and instead he was hit by memories, of a wolf pawing at his door and curling up with him in the corner of the attic and sleeping on the hard floor next to his bed so he could wrap his hand in its fur. Memories of blinding grins and endless stories, of sunlit days quietly listing off ways to care for raspberry bushes, and of a large warm hand wrapping around his underneath the dinner table. Memories of feather-like touches over his bruised stomach and the flutter of warmth it had brought him. 

 

Derek was bright like the sun and beautiful and kind and protective and Stiles wouldn't have survived the last few months without him and he had forced it all to the back of his mind because Stiles was too jagged and too course and Derek shouldn't want him but here he was. Looking like home and a future and sunlit mornings where night was just a memory and it was okay because day had broken and he had made it through. And oh, because Stiles had become so good at ignoring himself that he hadn't even realized how much he wanted this until it was right there and he felt like he'd just broken the surface of the icy water he'd been held under in for so long he'd forgotten he was drowning. 

 

Even though pelts were stupid and Derek was ridiculous and sometimes he snorted obnoxiously when he laughed and snored like a thunder storm when he slept on his side, even though Stiles felt like an idiot kid getting offered to a dance at prom, he wanted it. He wanted Derek. He wanted all of his horrible jokes and weird hobbies and constant pestering. He wanted it like he wanted to see the next sunrise. 

 

His eyes burned and welled and he probably looked ridiculous but he didn't really give a damn. Stiles stepped forward, grabbed the front of Derek's sweatshirt and pulled the taller teen down until their lips met in a summer storm of colliding thunder between their chests and rain on their tongues. It probably wasn't how these things were meant to go—etiquette and all—but Stiles was nothing if not unorthodox. 

 

Derek tasted like raspberries and smelled of sweet grass and dew. His lips were soft and tender and he desperately didn't want to pull away. When he finally did, it was only far enough to press their foreheads together, both of them breathing heavily, throats full of soft white clouds. Stiles tilted his chin in order to nudge Derek's nose with his and the other released a breathless laugh. 

 

"Yes." Stiles whispered his answer to the silent question against Derek's lips and the younger broke into a beaming smile. There was the gentle brush of a thump over his cheek before it disappeared and he felt a warm weight settling over his shoulders. Derek pulled his face away but intertwined their fingers together not a moment later, intent on leading Stiles away from the clearing and back towards the house so they could be alone and just maybe kiss again, but without an audience. 

 

Speaking of, before they entered the line of trees, Stiles sought out the Alpha's gaze and found her stationed over by the food table, watching them both with such an illuminous warmth in her gaze that it was overwhelming. 

 

Walking in a daze, Stiles lifted his free hand and soothed it over the soft, glossy black fur of the coat that had been draped over his shoulders. It was beautiful. It also smelt only of Derek and that caused a smile to pull at his lips from where Derek couldn't see as he led Stiles—at least, he wouldn't have seen if the wolf hadn't kept looking back at him over his shoulder every few seconds. 

 

At the house, they went straight up to Stiles' room again, kicked off their shoes and climbed onto the bed. They both laid on their sides, facing each other and mapping out every bit other each other's face. Stiles, with Derek's coat settled over his top half like a blanket, reach out across the short distance between them and traced his fingertips over the planes of Derek's face, occasionally leaning forward to press his kiss to Derek's cheek or forehead or nose or mouth. There was nothing rushed or heated about it, and they were both more than okay with that. 

 

They fell asleep tucked around each other and with the taste of the other on their lips. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Stiles was happy. 

 

No 'if's 'and's or 'but's. He's genuinely happy. That was something he hadn’t been able to say honestly for a long time now. 

 

Derek was goofy and young and perhaps had a lot to learn about the world, but he was Stiles'. He was Stiles' soft spot, always. He wouldn’t want it any other way. 

 

Immediately following the Spring Union, the news had already reached the furthest reaches of the pack before daybreak. They came down to breakfast that morning and were greeted with congratulations, sly smiles, and mild ribbing from the rest of the pack. 

 

Laura snarked that Stiles was 'way too cool for her dorky little brother' but the twist of her lips told them she was happy. 

 

Cora promptly warned Derek that she'd break his hands in his sleep if he ever hurt Stiles. They both knew she wasn’t joking and Stiles was a little touched. 

 

They went about breakfast as usual, though Derek never went long without a brief touch as if to reassure himself that Stiles was really there. It was sweet and Stiles welcomed the contact. It filed him with warmth and a swooping in his gut that he decidedly enjoyed. 

 

Days floated away like wispy clouds in the cerulean sky. The fresh heat of spring washed over them in saccharine waves. Stiles did his best to keep up with his duties, but the moment Derek could get his hands on him, he was tugging the human away from his task with a blinding smile and all but dragging him out onto the preserve. 

 

Under the shade of the trees' thick verdant plumage, cut through by golden banners of sunlight, the two boys wandered and explored the forest like it was their kingdom. Running over uneven ground and walking careful lines across the trunks of fallen trees with arms spread for balance. Climbing trees, pointing out odd looking plants and insects, wading through the lax currents of a river. Like shedding skin, Stiles slowly found himself opening up, his smiles came easier and laughter only something Derek could coax out of him. 

 

And sometimes they stopped under the green canopy, already reaching for each other, and kissed until they were breathless. Derek's hands usually found their way under his shirt by the time they pulled apart, brushing over his spine or trailing up to grip the curve of his ribcage or settled low on his hip with his thump soothing over the sensitive stretch of skin. Derek's touches always set his body alight. The gesture itself might not be meant to affect him so much but the way he touched Stiles always curled deep hooks in his gut and pulled. 

 

The wolf always touched him with reverence. Like he had all the time in the world but didn’t dare waste a single moment of it. It was a soft glide against him that ran through him in currents of electricity and icy rain, pulling up goose bumps all over. 

 

They often got caught up in their own world and sometimes that got them in trouble with the rest of the pack, but other than a few grumbled complaints from the others, no one really got on their case. After all, Stiles was still Stiles. He might blush when Derek caught him off guard with a kiss on the cheek, he might knit their fingers together under the table at dinner, he even like it best when Derek pulled him back against his broad chest when they slept, but none of that negated the fact that was still a quiet, looming, and sometimes unsettling figure to be around—especially when he wasn’t with Derek. 

 

Stiles wasn’t fixed. He'd lived through years of hell and no matter how many times he caught himself thinking that he might much more than 'like' the younger boy who had taken over his life, that couldn’t just be erased over night. He still had night terrors, panic attacks, nightmares, and 'bad days.' He still had many things to work on and work through before he could consider himself normal again. 

 

As much as the thought of being Derek's mate seemed better than any dream he could possibly conjure up, his demons weren’t killed off by his big, beautiful wolf. Though . . . maybe they were chased off by him. . . 

 

Derek never shied away from that part of him. From the very beginning, Derek had seen the weakest and most damaged parts of him and had never once indicated he wasn’t fully invested in being there every single time and to do everything he could for Stiles. Even if it took years, Derek whispered the promise into his ear in the dead of night, even if he never fully recovered, Derek would never leave his side. 

 

And it was moments like those, hidden in the cloak of darkness where they were nothing but their barest selves, that Stiles knew he was hopelessly, helplessly falling for the boy. And he knew that Derek was feeling the exact same way because sometimes he’s said so when he thought Stiles was asleep. 

 

Derek still spent every night with Stiles in the attic. Though, he stopped waiting in his own room for a few hours and instead just followed Stiles up after dinner. A month after the Spring Union, and Derek had moved most of his clothes into Stiles' dresser. A week after that and Stiles went up to his room to grab something and walked in on Derek and Mark—who had been roped into by the overly eager teen—moving Derek's desk into the attic as well. Stiles had found it adorable and had kissed the boy senseless the moment Mark had grumbled and trudged away irritably. 

 

Talia didn’t say anything really about her son basically moving in with Stiles into the large attic room. However, they did go up after dinner once to find a brand new bed that could fit two people far more easily than the one before. Also, the Alpha did call Derek into her office once for a chat the day after the new bed appeared and Stiles didn’t know what they'd talked about, but Derek had been thoroughly flustered and bright red afterward, hardly able to look Stiles in the eye for the rest of the day. 

 

By the end of March, Stiles and Derek had been together officially for two months. Unsurprisingly, Derek had been the first to say out loud that he loved him. 

 

It was the first time Stiles had opened up and shared something from his past. He and Derek were out in the garden and Stiles had been tending to the raspberry bushes again. He had felt content and relaxed and happy, and in the comfortable silence as he gently pulled the red berries from the plant and Derek had been looking at a caterpillar that he had let crawl onto his hand, the words had just come so easily. 

 

“My mom used to have a garden of her own. . . not nearly this big, but she grew a few things here and there. She would always pull me away from whatever game I was playing or comic I was reading to go outside and let me help her with the garden. At the time I could care less about gardening or plants, but I never said so because she would always start humming while she tended to her plants and nothing ever sounded as wonderful as her voice.” Derek had turned his full attention to Stiles, soaking up every word with rapt focus. 

 

“One day, I asked her, 'Why do you always sing when you're out here? The plants can’t hear you.' And she just smiled and said, 'Can't they? If they can’t hear me, then why do they sing back?' She was always saying weird things like that, trying to get me to think and see beyond the apparent. 

 

“So, indulging her, I leaned down to try to hear something and understand what she meant. At first, I heard nothing and thought she was losing it, but then the wind shifted and rustled through the leaves and flicked at the petals and forming fruits. I realized, later on what she'd been trying to tell me. If you’re listening for the wind, or the buzz of the cicadas, or the trill of a bird, then that's exactly what you will hear. However, if you’re listening for music, no matter where you are, that's exactly what you will find; it just might not be so obvious.” He finished with a reminiscent and slightly melancholic smile on his lips as he pulled another berry and dropped it into his basket. 

 

For a long moment, Stiles drifted in his own thoughts and memories, silence stretching around them and was only brought out of his head when Derek finally spoke. 

 

“I love you.” It was so sudden, Stiles didn’t even realize what he'd heard for a while as he turned to look at the other and saw his face was bright red and he looked just as shocked by his own outburst as Stiles. Derek gaped for a moment, probably trying to figure out away to ease the situation without taking the words back because he meant them, he just didn’t mean to say them. 

 

Before Derek could spit out a single word, though, Stiles' face broke out into a luminous grin and he leaned over to press his lips to the wolf's, essentially drying up any excuse the other could even think to utter. Pulling back just a fraction so his lips ghosted over Derek's, Stiles whispered with a fast, but steady heart. 

 

“I love you too.” 

 

After that, with the way Derek said them, one would think those three words were his absolute favorite. 

 

                      

 

On the 31st of March, Stiles did something he'd never done before. It was the Friday before a long weekend and Derek had been telling him all week that he couldn't wait for the weekend because they'd both been too busy to venture out into the woods much—one of their favorite things to do these days. Derek had been swamped with papers and projects in school, and Stiles was finally working with Talia in order to get him proper—with a few short cuts to keep things clean and without questions—documentation and identification so that he could do what he wanted and wouldn't be forced to always stay at the house. They even discussed him finishing his education. 

 

Stiles was excited, but he also missed Derek—not that they didn't still spend time together and slept in the same bed every night, he just missed the way Derek would run around in the woods like an over-stimulated puppy. So, he decided he might surprise his boyfriend—Derek had nearly passed out the first time Stiles had to referred to him as such, even though they were someday going to be mates, which was inconceivably more serious and important than just 'boyfriend's sometimes he really didn't understand the way Derek thought. 

 

It wasn't anything big, he was just going to give Derek a ride after school instead of Laura—who had been complaining lately about how love-sick Derek always smelt and that it was stinking up her car. He was actually planning on picking Derek up from then on, if the other boy wanted him to. 

 

Though the plan had started as just him wanting to see Derek's face when he showed up, he was halfway to the school when he realized there was another purpose to be fulfilled by going there that day. It was the 31st of March 2004, which was the day after Paige had died in his timeline. Stiles knew Derek hadn't been seeing the girl—since Derek couldn't lie to save his life and Laura's descriptor of 'love sick' was very accurate, sometimes he worries Derek wouldn't remember to eat if he wasn't with him for almost every meal—but that didn't mean that fate might not figure out a way to make some events happen anyway. 

 

Stiles needed solid, concrete proof that he could change the timeline. He needed to know he could change major events. 

 

Stiles pulled up next to the sidewalk where he would have a perfect view of the front doors. Just as he was climbing out of the car, he heard the familiar, muffled sound of the last bell ringing through the school. Stiles walked around and settled back against the side of the car, arms crossed over his chest as the first few students trickled out. 

 

Being there, seeing the school again, a place where so much had gone down and gone wrong in his own time was not easy. There were innumerous bad memories, but there were also so many good ones. He ached to walk the halls, feel the cool blue lockers under his fingertips, pay Coach Finstock a visit just to him spit rapid and witty insults at the students that pushed his buttons too far. He wanted to revel in the nostalgia, but too much of Stiles' nostalgia had been stained by violence and pain and death. So, maybe later on, when he was in a better place and his memories didn't feast like vultures on his mentality. 

 

Stiles was brought out of his own head when his eyes caught on a faintly familiar face, one he'd only seen briefly in a picture. Paige. She was alive. Not only that, but she was healthy and seemed happy, surrounded by a few other girls who were carrying black cases of different sizes he suspected to hold their band instruments. Stiles released the breath he was holding in his chest and felt a weight he hadn't realized was there slide off his chest. He felt lighter, freer, and like his hopes were no longer just pipe dreams. 

 

He did it. . . 

 

It wasn't a guarantee, by any means. He would still need to be careful and pay close attention to everything that happened in Beacon Hills from that day forth. There were some things that had been set in motion long before Paige's death, and he would need to be ready for when it came to fruition. 

 

The doors swung open and Stiles automatically felt a smile tugging at his lips when his wolf came ambling through with a few other boys around him who all looked like they lived and breathed basketball. One of these days, Stiles would need to start going to Derek's games. He always wondered what it'd be like to be the proud boyfriend cheering in the stands rather than a bench-warmer who knew the cheers weren't for him. 

 

Derek had only taken a few steps when he suddenly came to a stop, the other boys frowning at him, and then Derek's head whipped up to look right at Stiles and it was like he was seeing the sun for the first time, the way he lit up. Derek ignored whatever his friends had asked him and made a break for Stiles, calling his name when he started running. Stiles was already laughing and stepping away from the car when he was hit by the semi-truck of a teenager, picked up and spun once on his feet like Derek just couldn't help but be cheesy and make Stiles feel like the protagonist of some rom-com. 

 

Stiles was still chuckling, practically oozing affection, when he was set on his feet and his lips were immediately captured by the other boy. Stiles leaned back against the car again and Derek followed his lips until he was pressing the slightly shorter boy against the door. 

 

Derek kissed him like he was in love, and Stiles was happy to reciprocate. Stiles had his hand clutching the wolf's shirt and the other splayed over a broad, firm chest. Derek's hands cradled his neck and face, occasionally drifting back to card through his hair. The sensation of fingertips against his scalp sent pleasured shivers down his body to be melted by the tight, hot smolder behind his navel. 

 

Stiles pulled back an inch with a smile. He sunk into the feelings and sensation of the moment and drank in the way Derek practically melted into him, pressing their foreheads together and sighing as if all the tension and stress had been drained from his body. 

 

"Surprise. . ." Stiles mused airily, nudging his nose against Derek's face affectionately. Derek snorted, lips curling up. 

 

"You sure know how to make a guy's day!" 

 

"Does that mean that you'd be alright with me picking you up from now on?" Stiles asked with a slight amused curl to his tone. 

 

"Pick me up, drop me off. You know, nothing would make me happier." 

 

                      

 

It had been a long time since Stiles had gone out into the preserve at night for a reason that didn't involve fear or anger. He had severely missed the ethereal atmosphere of the darkened wood at night. Their long weekend had finally come, many in the pack taking the chance to go on short trips, go camping with their families, or doing things they normally wouldn’t have time for during the week. 

 

Derek's plans, however, included sneaking out with Stiles in the middle of the night to venture out in the woods to go stargazing. Stiles had embraced the last-minute plan in pure 'Stiles'-fashion. Derek had laced their fingers together in order to lead Stiles in the dark and Stiles had reveled in the benign thrill of doing something he shouldn't, but something that had very little consequence to it. 

 

Enveloped in the cool onyx drapes of night, Stiles had genuinely enjoyed it. They found a small clearing and dropped back onto the soft grass. Stiles' head was pillowed on Derek's arm, the heat of the wolf's body chasing the shallow chill from his flesh. It had all been perfect, up until they laid back and hardly saw a single star through the thick dark cover of clouds overhead. Derek had been embarrassed by the short-sightedness of his plans and Stiles had comforted him with a light teasing remark, followed by assurances that it was still exciting and fun even without the stars. 

 

                      

 

That would have held true if that had been the end of it. But no. As if to spite his words, the sky soon thereafter opened up and ushered on a sudden and violent downpour. 

 

"Holy shit! Let's run for it!" Derek shouted over the white-noise of the rain as he jumped up and hauled Stiles off the ground. They were both soaked through before they'd even started running, yelling to each other about 'just their luck' and how hard it was coming down as they ran almost blindly through the forest, slippery wet hands clasped tightly. 

 

Stiles slipped a few times on the slick rocks and watery mud, but Derek was always quick to catch him and right him again before he could fall and hurt himself or completely cover himself in mud. His hair was a wet mess, clinging to his head or whipping around to throw droplets of water into his eyes. His clothes clung heavily to him, impeding his movements and working with the torrents of rain to sap at his warmth. However, the thrill running through him and the exertion of his body kept him from shivering or losing all of his heat. 

 

The journey back to the Hale house was much faster than the one going from it. They burst through the trees, still partially blinded by the rain in front of them and running into their eyes, and completely overwhelmed by the chaos of the storm and the drums in their chests. They slowed down to slip through the back door as quietly as possible, not wanting to be discovered in the midst of their late-night escape. 

 

Restraining their labored breaths as much as possible and creeping through the darkened house, they left a trail of water droplets and wet footprints as they snuck up to the attic. Once they were in the attic room and separated from the rest of the pack by layers of soundproofing, only then did they allow themselves to breath heavy as they tried to process the last few minutes. 

 

Stiles was the first to come down enough to formulate a response—if you considered breathlessly laughing at their soaked states a response. Derek looked up from where he was bent over, hands on his knees to meet Stiles' light honey-brown gaze, which was burning with so much lividity and humor and disbelief that he was taken aback. 

 

As Derek straightened up, Stiles' laughter was trickling down, but left remnants in his breath and a care-free smile on his face. The human's heart and breathing calmed. The raging storm outside echoing through the room by the poor insulation and thin windows, but their breaths could still be heard from the short distance they stood from each other. 

 

He took in the sight of Derek, in the cool low light of the room. Drenched in rain water from head to toe, black hair raked away from his face with a hand and droplets still sliding down from the strands over pale, glistening skin. His T-shirt clung to his torso, mapping out hard plains and firm muscles under the thin material. His tight jeans wrapped around firm thighs in a way that looked like they would be impossible to remove and were decidedly distracting. 

 

Most distracting of all, though, was Derek's face. His fair, smooth skin was still sheening with rain, there was a hardly visible bloom of red high in his cheeks that were still just a touch soft from his youth. His lips were a flushed red, like he'd been biting them, and his endearingly kid-like bunny teeth just barely peeking out from behind parted lips. His eyes looked dark in the lighting, just faintly glowing with an enticing green in the brief and startling flashes of lightning from the storm. Derek was a mix of insatiably beautiful, and innocent, contradictory qualities that made Stiles feel unquestionably safe and familiar. Like honey and wine, it called deep inside Stiles, evoking the dizzying tendrils of heat and making him completely unafraid to submerge himself in the waters of arousal. 

 

Thunder broke overhead like a deafening drum, cadenced by a low rumbling within the wolf's chest as he stepped forward. He stopped with less than a foot of space between them and Stiles' couldn't tear his gaze away from Derek's eyes. Intense and calm. The swelling of great and powerful waves in the middle of the ocean. A pool of black expanding within the green. Long black lashes clinging together with rain water. 

 

Fingertips trailed down both of his arms and he shuddered a breath at the intensely sensitive feeling licking up his skin. He never looked away from Derek's eyes, even when he felt gentle fingers pulling the clinging fabric away from his stomach, guiding it up. Stiles lifted his arms and a moment later the shirt disappeared. He was left bare chested in the cool room, the air gliding over his still damp body and eliciting goose bumps all over. 

 

Without a word, Stiles reached over and did the same for Derek, pulling the dripping material from his body and trailing his hands down his bare front, both in exploration, and to revel the solid feeling of the other's body under his hands. 

 

And then they collided. Fervent kisses and curious tongues. Stiles wrapped one arm over Derek's shoulders, while his other hand came up to hold the side of his face. Meanwhile, Derek's arms curled around his middle, hands grasping at his flesh and pulling him flush against Derek. Stiles' lips parted easily and Derek's tongue licked inside, needing to taste. Their hands were everywhere, pulling, and squeezing, and caressing. Stiles' mind was lost to the bombardment to his senses and just allowed his body to take over. 

 

And then he was stumbling as Derek pulled him into motion, not breaking the kiss until they reached the bed and Stiles toed off his shoes and socks before pulling away so he could climb backwards onto the bed and then laying back, beckoning Derek with a heavy-lidded gaze and an airy exhalation of his name. A moment later, Derek was situated over him, arms and legs caging him in, and diving down to steel his kiss once more. 

 

By the time Derek's lips shifted to the side and began trailing their way down over his jaw and towards his neck, Stiles was breathing heavy and his lips felt hot and a little swollen. Stiles tilted his head back to bare his throat to Derek's delicious ministrations—not a submission of rank, but one of something far more intimate. Stiles was silently handing over control to Derek and the wolf immediately picked up on it, judging by the reverberating growl that resonated through his chest and the brief scrape of blunt teeth against his neck. The noise that was pulled out of Stiles then was sharp in the back of his throat, as well as high and almost desperate. 

 

Derek's kisses against his neck turned rougher and the hot tongue that striped up from the hollow of his clavicle to a spot just behind his ear had him unconsciously keening and arching his back off the bed for a moment. Stiles wanted to bare himself, to lay his arms above his head, arch his back, part his thighs, and open himself completely to Derek. He wanted the wolf to take everything he offered because he trusted Derek and knew that he would never hurt him or abuse the control he was offering. 

 

These were not thoughts Stiles was used to having, he'd never been in a situation like that, but somehow, it didn't feel like a clash with his personality. More like, it felt like the times when Stiles had lost control over himself in the midst of a night terror or something, and he whole-heartedly trust Derek to be there and take care of him. Though, this was definitely far different from those times in many ways. One being, Stiles had probably never been so aroused in his life, and at the same time—frighteningly clear-headed about exactly what was happening and how he felt about it all. 

 

As he was having those thoughts, Derek's kisses had turned tender again after ravaging his neck and were slowly moving down towards his chest. There were a few playful bites at his flesh between kisses along his chest before his mouth disappeared, but before Stiles could open his eyes and see what had stopped Derek, there was a hot and relentless mouth on his left nipple and a surprised, pleasured noise was ripped from his throat. It was all teeth and a slick tongue and Stiles reached up to tangle his long fingers in Derek's dripping locks, causing a few cold droplets to hit his chest and drag shudders out of the moaning teen. 

 

It seemed like an eternity had passed when Derek shifted to the other and renewed his mission to slowly unravel Stiles at the seams. Stiles' eyes slid open partially and he looked down to watch Derek revel in the taste of his skin, watching with a nearly tangible lust in his eyes as his touch and blunt teeth left pink marks in Stiles' fair, mole-dotted skin. The marks didn't hurt or anything and certainly weren't enough to leave bruises, but for werewolves who were unfamiliar with a bruise linger for more than a few minutes—much less a red little mark from even the slightest friction and pressure—the way Stiles' skin held onto each touch, even if they wouldn't last more than a few minutes or a few hours, would probably be fascinating for the wolf. 

 

Derek shifted and started to move away from Stiles' chest, trailing less coordinated kisses down his stomach towards his navel. However, Stiles needed to put a pause on things before they went any further. Stiles may have handed over control, but he'd be damned if that meant he wasn't going to openly and freely communicate with Derek just because it might 'break the mood.' 

 

"Derek, wait." His voice was breathy, but clear. Derek immediately pulled back and looked up at Stiles with wide, concerned eyes. He couldn't help but smile at how much Derek looked like his usual over-grown-puppy-self in that moment, and he wanted to ruffle Derek's hair, but there was something he had to ask first. 

 

"Are you sure? We don't have to do this now, we can take our time and talk it through later. Or, you know, we don't have to go all the way." Stiles offered, wanted Derek to know he didn't expect anything from him. It was his first time—both of their first times—but there was much more to it than that. He'd felt it building over the past couple of months while he and Derek had been together. 

 

An itching in his gums, moments of overwhelming contentedness while just being in Derek's presence, and stray unwarranted thoughts about Derek that were surprisingly possessive and overzealous. Even before the Spring Union, before they'd looked at each other in a less-than-platonic light, they had been beginning the stages of forming a mating-bond. It was something that usually only happened after deciding you were definitely going to become mates and was a sign of compatibility between a pair. The fact that they had begun that process before they were even dating spoke volumes about them together. 

 

Stiles was also convinced that Talia had picked up on it before either of them had and it was why she had been so encouraging towards them spending time together and even Derek's offering at the Spring Union after only knowing Stiles for two months. Mates weren't like dating. Mates were forever, so for Talia to be so cavalier about it, meant that she had probably picked up on a lot that they hadn't. 

 

Now that they were officially heading down the path to becoming mates, there had been no illusions for either of them what would happen when they took things further. They had talked about it with each other before, and it was part of the reason why they waited, despite the apparent attraction, to ever go beyond kissing for the months they had been prospective-mates. They both knew well that their coupling would result in a completion of the mating bond and Stiles needed to check with Derek in a very clear and unmistakable manner that it was something he wanted. Because it was Stiles' first time too and he would be crushed if Derek ended up regretting any part of it later on. 

 

The moment Stiles had uttered the question though, Derek's expression morphed into one of fondness and love. Smiling down at the boy beneath him, Derek reached out and brushed his thumb over Stiles' red bottom lip, trailing lightly over his cheek. 

 

"Yes, I am sure, Mieczyslaw. Absolutely." Derek didn’t call Stiles by his real name often, it was something he almost always did in private and it was his way of leveling with Stiles and making sure he knew that the wolf was being completely serious. The use of his first name had become something intimate and never failed to strip away his walls and leave him feeling utterly exposed to Derek. 

 

With one last reassuring and honest smile for Stiles, the wolf leant down and brushed his lips lightly over the stretch of skin below his navel a moment before the button of his jeans came undone, the zipper drawn down, and the damp fabric was being pulled from his legs. Derek had to shift down the bed in order to completely remove Stiles pants and once they were off, he took a moment to peel his own wet jeans away from his firmer, stronger legs, leaving them both in only briefs. 

 

Instead of caging him in again, when Derek climbed back on the bed, he gently tapped Stiles' knees to indicate to him to part them. Feeling a welcome rush of heat in both his gut and his cheeks, Stiles pulled his legs up to plants his feet on the bed and spread his legs apart enough to make room for the larger male. Smiling to himself, Derek moved closer and started with a kiss to the side of his bent knee that had Stiles melting. 

 

The rain continued to batter the windows and his vision was sometimes blinded by lightning bathing them both in pale light. 

 

Derek's lips moved down the inside of his thigh, hands following a path of their own. Stiles threw an arm over his head while the other hand curled around a fist-full of bedding. Warm breath cascaded over his thighs, and he panted as his pulse kicked up. His tongue swiped over a constellation of moles, his toes curled and he sighed out a moan. Just above the hem of his briefs, blunt teeth sunk into the meat of his thigh without breaking the skin and Stiles softly cried out. Spine arching while thick, hot arousal bloomed in his groin and lower abdomen like something had burst and was now bleeding into the rest of his body, feeding saccharine fire into his veins. 

 

Derek rubbed soothing circles into the skin of his inner thighs that only fanned the flames and he could only watch as Derek's large hands moved over his legs and the younger teen glanced up from between his thighs and was sure he had Stiles' gaze when he turned his head and pressed a kiss to his other thigh. Stiles whimpered because Derek knew what he was doing to him and was thoroughly enjoying these new experiences and learning all the things that made Stiles come undone and what noises he made when he kissed there and bit down here. 

 

Stiles gasped when he suddenly felt his briefs sliding off and the moment they were pulled over his feet—which had been lifted up off of the bed—and thrown somewhere off to the side, Derek dropped down once more as he pushed Stiles' legs apart, leaving his already hardened cock exposed to the air and avid eyes. 

 

Through lidded eyes, Stiles caught a peek at molten gold filling Derek's irises before the wolf was all over him, kissing and licking brushing against. Derek's hands curled around the outsides of his thighs to keep him in place as he mouthed at his hips and the juncture between his leg and pelvis. Stiles moaned, watching Derek, and involuntarily began to squirm under his mouth but was firmly kept still by Derek's hands. 

 

And then, without warning, Derek licked a long stripe up the underside of his cock and only gave Stiles a moment to bite down on his plush bottom lip before engulfing him and doing his best to bring Stiles waves of pleasure. He could tell that Derek was inexperienced—too much teeth at times, some moments of fumbling and pausing as he figured out what worked and what didn't—but it still felt amazing and Stiles loved Derek so much he felt like he was going to combust and he honestly preferred the fumbling and the sweet and endearing cluelessness about certain things because it made him feel warm inside. 

 

He loved that Derek didn't turn into a whole different creature, teeming with sexual knowledge and dark, sinful techniques because he fell in love with Derek, and that's who he wants his first time to be with. Stiles was still a teenager too, and he wants to have tentative and sometimes hilariously awkward experiences in bed with his mate because they were young and sometimes they were stupid. They had the rest of their lives to learn about themselves and each other and that was something Stiles was looking forward to immensely. 

 

The emotional direction his thoughts had taken were only slightly distracting while Derek continued to send incredible tendrils of heat and pleasure through him, but ultimately, they made his eyes a little watery. He was vulnerable and experiencing a constant flood of endorphins and the fact that he was here and with the love of his life was making him just a tiny bit weepy, but in the best ways. Though, Derek had seen enough of Stiles' crying that he probably wouldn't even feel embarrassed if he ended up actually crying at some point during this because of how good it felt. 

 

As the corners of his eyes grew damp, Stiles then recognized the steady build of bliss in his groin and tightening behind his navel and knew that he was close. 

 

"Derek s-slow dow-wn, or else I'll. . ." Stiles trailed off, words forgotten amidst the thick haze rolling through his head like thunderclouds as Derek pulled back slightly and circled his tongue around the head of his cock, sending shocks through him that were just a little too intense to guide him over the edge. Stiles yelped at the sensation and his head lifted of the bed as he tensed before Derek pulled off and he trembled as he settled back down, slowly letting his approaching climax slip away again. 

 

Derek tenderly kissed his hip once before pulling away and Stiles felt the bed shift as Derek got up, but he was too busy staring at the patterns of rain and lightning dancing across the attic ceiling through heavy lids and listening to the rumbles of thunder outside as he floated in of the slowly ebbing threat of orgasm, to be concerned with where he was going. Stiles stretched out on the bed, feeling a slight sheen of sweat over his body and some muscles still tense from how close he'd gotten to cumming. 

 

There was the sound of drawers being opened and shut somewhere off to the side and then a moment later, Derek was climbing back onto the bed. There was a clear little bottle in his hand that Stiles recognized after a moment of cloudy scrutiny. 

 

"Where did you get that from." He asked curiously, wondering if the sixteen-year-old had really gone out and bought lube on his own. Though, Stiles knew enough about what was to come next to be grateful, enough overly-curious and too-much-Adderall-fueled web searches in the past had taught him well of the importance of lube. As much as Stiles sometimes liked to think of himself as invincible, there were just some things his body could not do without help. 

 

Derek made a face that was halfway between a wince and sheepish. 

 

"Laura got it for me as a gag-gift for my birthday. At least, I think it was a gag-gift. Wouldn't put it past her to give it to me seriously." Derek shrugged and Stiles chuckled softly. Either way, no matter how Derek had gotten it, he was glad they had it now. 

 

Derek resituated himself between Stiles' knees and popped open the lid before hesitating and looking up at Stiles again. 

 

"Is it okay if I, uh . . ." Derek glanced between the bottle in his hand and then down as Stiles' spread legs. Stiles immediately understood what he was asking. He wanted to be sure Stiles was okay with bottoming. Stiles smiled fondly up at the boy who was about to officially become his mate—even in the middle of such an intense and intimate act, Derek never failed to be so incredibly adorable and considerate. 

 

"Yes, it's okay. I would quite prefer it, in fact." Stiles answered with only a slight note of teasing to his words, though the steady beat of his heart told the other that they were spoken honestly. Derek beamed down at him squirted out a generous amount of lube onto his fingers. As Derek did that, Stiles reached up to grab a pillow so he could shove it under his hips and give both himself and Derek a better angle—again, thank you unnecessarily thorough research. 

 

Derek's slicked up fingers moved down and sank down between the cleft of his ass until his fingertips brushed his entrance. Stiles sucked in a breath and unconsciously pulled his knees closer to his body, folding his legs and pulling them up a bit so that Derek would have better access. He heard Derek growl lightly at the action but before he could second guess it, a large un-slicked hand settled on the back of one of his thighs and pushed it a little higher. 

 

Derek's digits rubbed dizzying circles around his hole that had him relaxing into the bed, moaning breathlessly, and trembling ever-so-slightly in the legs. And then, a long finger slowly breached the rim of muscles and slid inside. The entire time it sunk in, Stiles dragged in a long breath and gripped the sheets tightly. The intrusion was odd-feeling, but after the initial shock of it, there was something pleasant about it as well. Not necessarily 'pleasurable' in the way Derek sucking his cock had felt, but more like 'nice' in the way a back rub was. It was good, and Stiles wanted more, but he knew that this feeling would eventually change. 

 

Experimentally, Derek pulled out his finger about halfway, and then pushed it back in, earning a pleased noise from Stiles. Derek continued to move his finger inside Stiles and he slowly got used to the sensation. Again, there wasn't anything particularly skilled or experienced about Derek's ministrations, but he never hurt Stiles and he was a surprisingly quick learner when it came to what Stiles did and didn't like. 

 

Soon enough, the feeling of Derek pushing his finger in and out of Stiles began to kick up little plumes of heat low in his belly and his breathy noises transformed into moans and he knew he was ready for more. However, Derek seemed unsure how long to keep going before adding a finger and seemed determined not to hurt Stiles at all costs. Eventually, though, Stiles grew restless and a bit desperate for more. So, he made his needs known. 

 

"Derek! Derek, more." Stiles squirmed when Derek still looked a little hesitant so Stiles reached down between his legs, grabbed Derek's wrist, and plunged it inside himself more fiercely, releasing a loud moan and head lolling back slightly as a different kind of pleasure than he's used to spread through his body. It was duller than that which he felt through his cock, he could tell it would take more effort to reach climax through this route, but it was also a deeper sort of pleasure. The kind that promised a mind-blowing and ultimately far more satisfying end. 

 

"Stiles!" Derek choked out, a mix of surprise and hunger in his gaze as he took in Stiles' blissed-out expression and listened to the absolutely melodic moans coming from the teen. 

 

Stiles dropped back on the bed when he felt Derek's grip on his thigh tighten and then he was pulling his finger almost all the way out before adding a second finger and sliding in much slower than the first time. The pleasure was still there in a low undercurrent, but the added finger brought with it a tightness that hadn't been there before. It didn't hurt, or anything, it just felt a bit tight. Once fully enclosed inside of him, Derek stopped and waited for a while for Stiles to get used to it, and only started moving his fingers once Stiles began to squirm again. 

 

This time, the movements were accompanied by more curling and spreading of his fingers to relax and accommodate his inner muscles. It took a bit longer for Stiles to be ready for the next finger, but Derek didn't hesitate so much when he got there. The stretch of the third finger was a bit more awkward and uncomfortable, coming with an odd pressure and low burn that took a while to ease away. By then, they were both a bit out of it, Stiles lost in the sensations with a growing sheen of sweat on his forehead over his body, and Derek mumbling praises and affectionate comments as he switched from watching his fingers moving in and out of the beautiful boy beneath him and looking up at said boy's face as he slowly came apart. 

 

It was as Derek wasn't fully paying attention to what he was doing that Stiles felt his fingers curl against something that ripped a sudden and euphoric cry from him as incredible and immense pleasure struck through him like the lightning beyond those walls. Derek stilled, unsure if he'd done something wrong, and watched as the boy heaved and shuddered, digging his fingers into the bedding under him. 

 

"That . . . That was my prostate," Stiles stated when he could manage to form words, meeting Derek's slightly befuddled gaze, he spoke more seriously and clearly, "It feels good, aim for it Derek." And that was all the other needed to push deeper once more and seek out the spot that had Stiles gripping the blanket for dear life and looking at Derek like he wanted to be devoured

 

Once he found it again, Derek gave the spot plenty of attention, but tried not to be too vigorous or relentless and end up overstimulating Stiles or making the area too sore later for him to keep feeling pleasure in that spot for when he was finally inside. 

 

Eventually, Stiles knew he'd had enough and just desperately wanted Derek. He wanted Derek inside him, to feel Derek all around him and know Derek could feel just as much pleasure as he was right then. 

 

"Derek, I'm ready." His voice was slightly wrecked from all the vocalizations of his pleasure, but it was still steady. Derek gave a few more thrusts of his fingers that were less for the feeling and more to make sure Stiles was indeed stretched and relaxed enough. 

 

Derek then pulled out his fingers and pushed his briefs all the way off, kicking them somewhere off the bed. Stiles took in the sight Derek completely naked and committed each detail to memory, wanting to be as familiar with his body as he was with his own. Derek's cock hung full and heavy between his legs, achingly hard. Derek quickly applied more lube to himself and dropped down over Stiles with either of Stiles' legs bent beside his hips. 

 

The position brought Derek's face within inches of him and felt far more intimate and comfortable than before. It settled fully on him then that this was really about to happen, that he was here, his old pack was still alive, he could change the coarse of history, he was with the man he loved more than anything else in this world, and they were about to make love for the first time and become full-fledged mates. Looking into the others eyes right then, he could see that Derek was just as nervous as him but instead of freaking him out, it only made him more relaxed and sure that he wanted to do this. 

 

Stiles wrapped an arm around his shoulders while cupping his face with his other hand and pulled Derek into an almost painfully tender and adoring kiss. Derek returned his kiss earnestly and when Stiles pulled back, it was to look Derek directly in the eye and whisper, 

 

“I love you.” 

 

Stiles saw the spread of a smile overtaking his face before Derek pressed his forehead against his, whispered he loved him too, and slowly pushed in. Stiles sucked in a breath and swore he saw stars as he gripped Derek tightly, but in retrospect, that may have had more to do with the storm still raging outside. 

 

Derek eased in ever-so-slowly, and Stiles could tell how hard he was trying not to hurt him by the sound of him gripping the fabric one either side of him like a life-line and the strained grunt that was punched out of him halfway through. At some point, Stiles had started murmuring soothing words and combing his fingers through Derek’s hair. Stiles was panting and trembling' his words trailing off into little incoherent noises by the time Derek had pushed himself fully inside. 

 

He was overwhelmed and so full, Derek groaned and settled more fully on top of Stiles like he couldn’t help it. There was a bit of a burn at first, it was soon overridden by the way their position had Derek pressed right against his prostate. Stiles gritted his teeth as the urge he'd been pushing down for months grew to an unbearable degree then. He didn’t want to throw things off kilter so soon, unsure how Derek would react when he did it, but his instincts won out in the end. 

 

While the wolf was still trying his hardest not to move so Stiles could adjust to him, Stiles lifted his head off of the bed. He moved on pure instinct, licking his lips before pressing soft kisses to the side of Derek's neck. The wolf panted heavily in his shoulder. Stiles' mouth trailed down to the juncture between shoulder and neck and his teeth ached something fierce just before he opened his mouth wide and clamped his jaw down on the firm flesh hard. Derek jolted and whimpered but Stiles kept pressing down harder. His teeth weren’t as sharp as Derek’s so he knew it would take more brunt force to pierce the skin. 

 

His jaw tinged a bit with the effort until he finally broke through the skin and was greeted with a hot trickle of metallic tasting liquid and an overwhelming rush of euphoric warmth in his core that shouted 'mate' to the furthest reaches of his body. Stiles unclamped his teeth and licked over the fresh wound on reflex. 

 

It was as his head fell back against the bed and his senses started to return to him that he realized Derek was rocking into him and moaning loudly into his shoulder. Stiles ran his tongue over his teeth to chase away the resolving traces of blood. Stiles hadn’t been entirely sure about how to go about becoming full-fledged mates, but the fact that the bite on Derek wasn’t fading or disappearing and was still oozing a bit of crimson was reassuring. 

 

Stiles groaned as awareness continued to clear the euphoria in his brain and sudden bursts of white-hot pleasure began to flood him with each of Derek’s thrust, which were getting deeper and faster by the minute. Stiles wanted to submerge himself completely in the feeling roaring through his body like a drug. 

 

Derek kept thrusting vigorously into him while Stiles moaned and held onto him for dear life. It built inside of him like tidal wave. 

 

Outside, trees bowed to ferocious winds as their leaves and needles were ripped away. Animals sought shelter and foliage was battered and abused by the rain, which then flooded the soil around its roots. Blinding flashes within the clouds illuminated the sheets of rain and turned the drops into a sea of fair stars. The collision of hot and cold air resounded through the air and reverberated through trees, ground, and cement foundations alike. It was a frightening and invigorating display of the sheer power of nature. A reminder that it could tear apart everything in its path for no other reason than that it was capable. 

 

And as the storm pounded against the Hale house, against the walls of the attic, the storms raging within the two boys burst into a cacophony of ecstasy and affection that left their trees overturned, their fields flooded, and their homes ripped up from their very foundations. And all the better for it. 

 

As they panted and began to slowly come down from their own climaxes, Derek nosed his way under Stiles' jaw, down his neck, until he reached the spot that mirrored the slightly aching wound on his own shoulder and with sharp teeth and glowing eyes, he bit down. Stiles cried out in an unexpected flood of pleasure and clamped down unwittingly on where he and Derek were still connected. 

 

When they pulled apart, slid under the blankets, and shifted onto their sides so that they could face each other on the bed as they had done countless times before, they touched and caressed and just marveled at their mate for what could have been forever. Stiles felt like a kid again, watching Derek like he'd hung the moon and the stars in the sky. And Derek watched him like he was the sun reincarnated. To be able to put all of his love and trust into Derek while knowing that he wouldn't rip off the mask one day and reveal himself to be a monster like what had happened so many times during his timeline, it was an amazing feeling he had dearly missed. 

 

They didn't sleep, just laid there for an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes touching or kissing, sometimes rolling into something a bit more intimate. And sometimes they would just talk, voices hushed by the late hour and soothing rain drizzling outside. When they did none of that, they laid in comfortable silence, staring at each other or losing themselves in thought. 

 

It felt like the night would never end—and honestly, he didn't want it to—the way time seemed to stand still in the bubble around their bed. In the way the darkness settled over the room seemed permanent. When the world beyond the attic began to lighten just a fraction and lift the shadows in the room to hazy blues and purples instead of pitch black. When it was still hard to see around the attic but everything had a shape and form in the softly lifting darkness, Stiles sat in silent thought. 

 

He had shifted to sit up and back against the headboard, sheets pooled haphazardly in his lap. Derek was lying next to him on his side, head propped up on his arm while he drew tickling invisible pictures into the skin of his exposed abdomen and thigh. He wasn't sure what led him to breaking the silence—especially with what he wished to say—but a part of him felt like he wanted Derek to know more about him, and perhaps a bigger part of him felt he just needed to say it out loud. To let it go, to release it and begin moving forward now that there was something to move forward towards. 

 

"From the very beginning, we were in way over our heads. . ." Stiles started, he wasn't looking at Derek, but he felt the fingertips on his him halt for a moment and caught Derek looking up at him from the corner of his eye. A moment later, the movements began again and he took it as a sign Derek was listening quietly, allowing him space to ruminate. 

 

"We didn't have generations of wisdom and knowledge passed down to guide us. Most of the time we were just feeling our way through it, completely blind. We didn't even start off as a pack. Some feral Alpha came to town and started biting and killing anyone in sight and a few of us just sort of fell together. We didn't know or trust each other. We were just stupid kids. And that was only the beginning of the shit-show coming our way. 

 

"Somehow, we managed to catch a break and were able to actually track down the feral Alpha and kill it. However, the bastard had left us with a little gift in its wake. It had turned someone, but instead of a werewolf, the kid was riddled with deep-seeded issues and bit of an identity crisis, so instead we ended up with a Kanima on our hands." Derek shifted into a seated position next to him then, a furrow marring his brows. He probably knew a little something about the creature, his concern was nearly palpable. 

 

"Some little psycho found out about it and started playing God in our little town like a kid with a magnifying glass over an ant hill. When we finally figured out who the Kanima was, we were able to pull him through it without killing him. A small mercy. And then hunters rolled on in. Some of them were alright, but others . . . let's just say they were more monstrous than the creatures they convinced themselves they were getting rid of. No code. No morals. They weren't even against harming and killing humans." Derek's hand found his and laced their fingers together tightly. Stiles kept going, feeling like he had opened a tap in his brain and was letting all of the poisonous memories and experiences drain out of him. 

 

"Then came a pack—one we were too small and too weak to fight on our own. Our current Alpha at the time made the decision to round up a few people who had no other feasible way out of their situations and offered them the bite. Probably hoping that with more wolves, we might stand a chance and might even be able to keep some of the oblivious humans in town alive. However, the pack had also brought something else with it. A Darach. A Druid who had turned its back on its very nature for power and revenge. The Darach was after the pack that had come to town, but it had needed more power to do it, so the Darach began kidnapping and sacrificing certain people around town for some ritual." Stiles shook his head, remembering their frantic search to figure out why the Darach was killing these specific people so they could stop her from hurting anyone else. 

 

"We tried to stop the sacrifices, though, which caused us and the Darach to butt heads. That lead to several pack members' parents being taken for the next sacrifice. We were juggling trying to find our parents and the other pack trying to take us out at the same time. We couldn't find them and we were running out of time. The three of us, we sort of only had that one parent that was taken and we couldn't bear to lose them too. So, desperate, we got help from a druid to find our parents. We . . . we had to temporarily stop our hearts in order to reach them and figure out where they were being kept. 

 

"We got to them in time and managed to save them. We defeated the other pack by the skin of our teeth and lost two pack members along the way. We killed the Darach as well. . . But it wasn't over yet. When we died for a few minutes we opened a doorway inside our minds. It left us vulnerable to darkness and the whole ordeal with the Darach had released something evil. A spirit called a Nogitsune." Derek squeezed his hand, but he could tell by looking at the other's face that Derek didn't know much—or at all—about what a Nogitsune was. 

 

"A malevolent fox spirit that fed off of pain and fear and chaos. And out of the three of us, I was the most vulnerable. At a young age, I had watched my mom slowly chipped away at by a long, painful, and degenerative illness. When she finally passed, I alone with her in the hospital room. For years, it left me riddle with holes, and despite the front I put up I had the weakest defense for when the Nogitsune came. Over the course of weeks, I started losing sleep and having nightmares. And then everything started to blend together and it became almost impossible to tell when I was awake and when I wasn't. It fed off of my fear, and when it wasn't visceral enough, it started to affect my reality and brought my worst fears to light. I began getting sick and exhibiting the same symptoms my mom had. Then the spirit was able to feed on not only my pain, but the people around me as well." Derek leaned in and pressed his lips to Stiles' shoulder, trying to offer comfort without stopping the other from speaking. Stiles needed to get it all out in one go, because he wasn't sure if he'd have the strength to repeat any of it later on. 

 

"It was like a parasite taking over my body. When it gained enough strength, it locked me away inside my own mind and took over completely." Stiles felt residual echoes of rage and fear from that time in his life and struggled to keep his composure for just long enough to finish his story. 

 

"I was still completely aware at times of what it was doing with my body. Using my face and voice to trick my pack into walking straight into traps while I could do nothing to fight it. Using my hands to plunge a blade through the boy who had been my best friend since we were in diapers. Setting a trap that led to that same best friend losing the love of his life. It set off bombs and gruesome traps that terrorized and devastated the whole town. It was a fight most of us didn't think we'd make it through. Honestly, that was where my night terrors began, why it sometimes takes me so long to come back down and recognize what was real and what wasn't. . ." 

 

Stiles sighed, feeling drained and weary already just from the memories that seemed pinned to each word. But he wasn't done quite yet, just a little bit further to go. 

 

"We eventually pulled through. By then, none of us really felt like ourselves anymore, we didn't feel like kids anymore. There was blood on our hands. We were tired, though. We were so tired, but as they say, 'there ain't no rest for the wicked.'" His tone was bitter and dull. "Not long after, bounties started being put out on the supernatural population in the area. The prices were high, and the money was good for. Hunters with loose enough morals and bounty-hunters alike flocked and started hunting us down left and right. We could fend them off at first, but then a sickness that effected werewolves specifically began to spread and we started losing. My . . . my dad tried to stop it, but he got caught in the cross fire. Soon enough, there was no one left but me, because I'm human and there was no bounty out for me. I stayed for the funerals, and then I left." He finished simply. 

 

Derek seemed like he wanted to ask something, so Stiles stayed quiet and waited for him to speak. 

 

"How-- . . . How soon before you, you know, came here?" Derek struggled to get his words out. Stiles knew that if he didn't want to say, Derek would understand and drop it immediately, but this was his mate and he felt the need to tell him. 

 

"The morning before I came here, I attended the ceremony for the very last of the pack. She had been trying to get out of town with her parents—maybe even out of the country—when she'd been attacked and the last bounty had been claimed." Stiles' tone was dull, as he was losing energy to keep open the bridge between his emotional baggage and the front of his consciousness, by the minute. 

 

"Oh God, Stiles!" Derek pulled Stiles against him more fully and he collapsed into the hold. 

 

As a murky, overcast dawn slowly pulled over the sky, Derek comforted his new mate and ever-so-gently brushed off the pieces of himself Stiles had let come tumbling out, and soothed them back together. The wolf understood that this was something they probably wouldn't talk about again for a long time, but he was grateful that Stiles had let him in and seen the most painful and shattered part of himself. 

 

He was proud of Stiles for sharing his past when it was so horrific and still such a deep wound for the teen. He'd had no idea just how bad it had been for Stiles and it only proved to show just how incredibly strong his mate was to have survived such terrible things and still find it in him to laugh and love and wish to move on. Especially now that he knew that it had happened so recently and just a day before he'd come to them, two days before he had met Stiles. 

 

Stiles was a survivor. Knowing what Stiles had been through now would only make him cherish every smile and laugh all the more. He had never known he could be this in love with someone, feel this deeply about another person. He would look forward to spending the rest of his life with the strong, iron-willed, beautiful boy in his arms. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Being mated to Derek felt too good to be real. Sometimes he had to resort to old tricks—like counting his fingers or reading something around him out loud—just to assure himself he wasn’t dreaming. It sounded cheesy, and cliché, but it was the truth. People like Stiles didn't get happy endings, they just endured until they couldn't go on anymore. However, every day that passed was a reassurance, a promise that he was alright and that he deserved to be happy 

 

Derek made him happy. 

 

At times, it was bittersweet, though. 

 

He wished . . . he wished he could show the ones he'd lost, the life he was slowly building for himself. He wanted to go home and introduce his dad to Derek as his boyfriend and mate. That he could tell him how amazing his life had become and he'd done something that he could be proud of his son for. He wanted to tell him about his day how beautifully normal it was. He wanted Scott to congratulate him for finding a mate. He wanted to counteract Scott's constant chatter about Allison by proudly boasting about Derek and his grades and school and his winning the basketball game. 

 

He wanted his mom to see the man he'd become because although he was far from perfect, her 'little mischief' had grown up and was in love and was surrounded by people who were coming to care for him. 

 

Each day, he felt even better than the last and he was moving forward, he just would never forget that the orientation of his life had changed completely and irreversibly, and there were people that would always be missing. He was also inexplicably glad he'd shared his past with Derek, because now he felt like he could share those thoughts with him when they came flittering on by through his mind. Instead of letting them linger and consume him. 

 

So, sometimes it was a joy that came with a bite, but that was alright. He had a lot inside him, and he knew he needed to let it out sometimes and allow himself to dell in it so he can analyze what he was thinking so that it didn't fester in his mind. 

 

As spring lethargically slipped into summer, with the heavy scent of sweet grass and the humming tune of the cicadas, Stiles finally settled fully within the pack and was ready to take the final steps and commit himself to the Hale Pack officially. Not that anyone had expected any different, especially after he and Derek had mated—something that was noticed immediately by the rest of the pack and they were congratulated on. 

 

Stiles had known for a long while that he was absolutely sure about joining the pack, he just needed time to let go of the torn and decaying bonds of his old pack first, before he could take on new ones. Derek had insisted Stiles take all the time he needed—ever the doting mate—since he knew Stiles still had a lot to sort through and full pack bonds would develop quicker and healthier if he wasn’t conflicted or holding another pack in his heart when he accepted them. 

 

In the saccharine heat of mid-July, after an afternoon of watching over the pups so Darla could go pick up ice-cream and a few movies for the kids; having spent the last twenty minutes trying to peel one tenacious pup off after it had wrapped its over-powered little arms around his neck where it had promptly passed out in his arms, Stiles had just given up and went about the rest of his duties with one arm secured under the kid to hold him up as he slept soundly. Darla had given him an amused and slightly teasing look before telling him to just make sure the pup ended up in his bed sometime. It was as he was trying to slide a plate back into the cabinet as silently as possible that he realized it. He was ready. Probably had been for weeks—maybe even months—but it had crept up on him. 

 

Feeling soft little puffs of breath against his neck where the kid—Samuel—had fallen asleep scenting him, he realized that despite the rough start, he saw these people as his family now. He was still quite stony around others and had a hard time showing any emotions other than 'frigid' but he also actively sought out duties that put him around the others and sometimes he pretended he had some duty in the area the pups usually played because, when no one else was looking, he liked to play with them and let them climb on his back and tell him long nonsensical stories that he would nod along to seriously as if it was the most important thing in the world. 

 

Stiles had avidly blamed his special soft spot for kids that he'd had almost his whole life. Being an only child growing up, he had always told himself he would have no less than three children when he grew up. It was a bit ridiculous at the time: an eight-year-old promising his parents he would give them tons of grandchildren later on. Scott had used to tease him about his 'mother-hen' side all throughout middle school and the beginning of high school. 

 

To say Stiles was surprised that aspect of his personality had survived through everything, would be an understatement. However, as Stiles settled down on the couch in a deserted living room, Samuel still clutching onto him while his fingers absently soothed up and down his little back and his other hand gently brushing over his soft hair on the back of his head, he realized that maybe he didn’t mind that fact much. Staring at the soft-cheeked little face sleeping on his chest, Stiles couldn’t help but wonder at the amount of love a parent could exert on their child. To have a tiny, dependable human trust and rely on you so much, to love you unconditionally and believe that you were a super hero with how you knew so much and could do so many things they couldn’t. 

 

He wondered what kind of parent he’d be. He had already filled every corner of his heart with his mate, could he really expand it enough for a child? Would he be able to give them a normal and healthy up bringing? Was it even a possibility? 

 

Stiles smiled longingly down at the pup in his arms. There was no telling how he would actually react to becoming a parent, but the thought of a child in his life—even if he wasn’t ready for one so soon—called to something deep inside him. 

 

Sighing deeply, letting go of the heavy thoughts that filled him with an aching longing, Stiles looked up from the child in his arms and his eyes caught on a figure in the doorway that hadn’t been there before. Derek was watching him from the door frame, arms crossed over his chest as he leaned against it. It was quite clear from his face that Derek had been watching him for a while had had read him like an open book. His mate had known what he was thinking about and instead of looking perturbed or teasing, Derek just looked . . . thoughtful, and fond. 

 

They watched each other in silence for a long time before Derek approached, greeted him with a kiss to his forehead and helped Stiles put the little wolf to bed. 

 

That night, they spent hours awake in bed, talking about the future and options and Stiles didn’t think he could ever fall more deeply in love with his mate and was so glad he was wrong. 

 

The next morning, Stiles took another step forward and sought out Talia just after lunch. The Alpha had been in her office, looking over documents when Stiles knocked and was invited in with a word and an incredibly warm smile. 

 

“Hello Stiles, what can I do for you?” she asked as she motioned for him to sit in the chair across from her desk. Ever since he and Derek had mated, she had been instinctively trying to dote on him and had even referred to him as her son/son-in-law on several occasions. 

 

Though he knew she was trying to abstain as much as possible so as not to smother him and make him uncomfortable, for an Alpha she had poor self restraint when it came to this and slipped into the mothering role more often than not with him. Honestly, he didn’t really mind, but he was probably a long way away from admitting that out loud. 

 

“There was something I wanted to discuss with you.” He began, not feeling even a lick of nervousness as he proceeded—another pleasant surprise. Talia nodded and motioned for him to go ahead. 

 

“If you would have me, I would like to officially join the Hale Pack.” He stated shortly, getting right to the point as always. Talia grinned. 

 

“Stiles, we would be honored to have such a hardworking and intelligent person join our pack. We already see you as one of us, I have no doubt that the rest of the pack will welcome you with open arms.” She sounded confident and earnest. And for once, Stiles completely believed her optimistic words. 

 

They then discussed more about how exactly he would become an official member and when to do it. Talia was willing to do it that very night, but she also wanted to make more of a celebration out of it—her son's mate was joining her pack, it was well within her right and even expected of her to make a big deal out of it—so they would hold off in order to make preparations. Especially considering that the full moon was only a few days away and they were already getting ready for that, so they would likely do it a few days after that. 

 

After that was settled though, it seemed that Talia had one more matter on her mind to discuss. 

 

“Actually, if you wouldn’t mind staying another minute there was something that I’ve held off asking you until you decided to officially join us.” She cut in as he was beginning to stand. Curious, Stiles sat back down in his chair and waited. 

 

“You’ve been with us for half a year now, Stiles. Over that time you have more than proven to all of us that not only are you strong, but you’re also loyal, diligent, wise, and can be both incredibly kind or brazen when you need to be. All of these are qualities that we consider quintessential for those born in human skin but with the heart of a wolf. I know unquestionably that you would take on the gift of the bite with honor and grace and would never bring shame to our people and our pack. 

 

“So . . . I would like to now offer you the bite. You would make an amazing wolf, Stiles. Also, me giving you the bite would automatically bring you into the pack without all those other steps. We will still have the celebration, of course. I just . . . you are absolutely worthy of the bite and from the moment I met you, I could see that there is already a wolf buried deep inside of you, it just needs a way out.” 

 

Stiles didn't know what to think. He'd never really thought about it before. Sure, he'd wondered once or twice back in his own time what it would be live to not be human—but that was mostly because Stiles had been pushed away from the pack 'for his own safety.' But those thoughts mostly disappeared after he learned to fight. Peter had also offered him the bite and had mentioned how he would have been a better one to bite instead of Scott, but Stiles had no desire at the time to be bitten by Peter and have him become his Alpha—especially not when times were so dire and he was needed to be clear-headed and not constantly battling with himself for control over his inner wolf. 

 

Now though . . . Stiles didn't feel apprehension or like he was about to take on a burden—a curse. He didn't know how the bite would affect him and how well he would acclimate to being a werewolf, but something inside him told him it would be okay. The thought of running with his mate—his pack—on the full moon, of being strong and resilient enough to protect those closest to him, of donning a new skin in his new life, it all just made sense. 

 

In that moment, the decision was easy. There were many benefits and little consequence. Who would he have to hide his nature from when he hardly left the pack? Something inside told him taking control of his wolf wouldn't be difficult either. 

 

Besides, spending so many months with the Hale Pack, immersed in their way of life and learning about their traditions and culture every day, he'd come to appreciate just how much of an honor and show of trust and respect it was for a human to be brought into the pack and turned. In his old life, Derek had done it quickly and without fanfare because he needed numbers fast, so he'd never realized how important and almost 'sacred' it was to give a human the bite. Humans were common additions to a pack, they served their own positions within it, so for one to be given the bite, it is either out of desperation or because they are seen as a wolf themselves that just need to be awakened. And the Hale Pack was anything but desperate. . . 

 

"I would be humbled and honored to receive the bite." Stiles spoke clearly, heart steady in his chest. Talia beamed. 

 

After that, the Alpha couldn't help but get up and pull Stiles into a hug. Not that he was complaining. 

 

                     

 

The night of the full moon was saturated with an uncanny thrill of excitement. The wind howled through the trees, pulled at fur and clothes alike, coaxing the wolves out of their den to run and hunt. The moon hung heavily over the preserve, a radiant pearlescent face, an unmoving stone in the rocking waves of the black velvet sea of the night sky. There was a palpable buzzing in the air that was more sentient than any other night that month—like the night itself was whispering into the shell of their ears to come out and shed their skins. 

 

Stiles wasn't sure what it was exactly, but that full moon in particular had everyone more riled up than usual. There had been one or two fights earlier in the day between the more sensitive and agitated wolves and the sun had hardly set before a few of them had shifted and ran out onto the preserve. Maybe it was stress, or the recent summer heat that seemed to have gotten to everyone at some point that week, or maybe it was a mixture of a bunch of different factors; but Stiles could clearly see how anxious and restless everyone was. 

 

Especially the pups. 

 

Darla may be a wolf and might have more experience with the children of the pack, but he could see right away that she was having trouble managing the rowdy pups and her desperate efforts to calm them down were only riling them up more. Stiles, on the other hand, had seemed to always have a very good handle on the younger ones. His proximity always seemed to be a soothing and calming presence. He didn't really understand why, knowing that he wasn't always the most . . . companionable person, but he wouldn't deny that he seemed to have a natural ease with handling the brats. Some of the other wolves knew that as well. 

 

So, Stiles decided to take pity on the woman and offered to watch them for her while she went out on the run with the rest of the pack—which she normally didn't get to do. After the first few full moons, Stiles had started accompanying Darla and the kids during the full moon to keep himself from growing too bored or antsy with the nearly empty house. It also helped to calm the tides of anxiety in him to station himself with the pups while the rest of the pack was away to make him feel like he was protecting them. 

 

Darla, knowing he could handle it even though he'd never really watched them on his own during a full moon, had gratefully agreed. Derek had looked especially proud of his mate to be entrusted with watching over the pups—even though it really wasn't that big of a deal. The big oaf. Stiles had rolled his eyes at his preening mate as he stood on the porch to see the rest of the pack off, though he still easily accepted the kiss and tight hug Derek gave him every time he went out for the full moon—or, really whenever he left Stiles for longer than a few minutes, the needy adorable bastard. 

 

After the other wolves had finally dragged the Alpha's son away from his mate and disappeared beyond the tree line, Stiles moved back indoors to the living room, where the large group of overly excited kids were play-fighting and bouncing off the walls to spend their pent-up energy. Wolves who had yet to hit puberty had trouble controlling the shift so they couldn't be around humans much, but the call to the woods and their needs were still subdued enough that they were alright with not going out on the runs during the full moon. They were usually taken out to run around on any day except the full moon, since the older wolves didn't want to risk not being attentive enough or the pups being too fast and them accidently losing sight of one while out on the preserve. 

 

So, they stayed indoors for the full moon, which left Stiles as the proxy for some of their over-flowing excitement. Stiles allowed for some of the smaller ones to climb on him and—carefully—wrestled some of the older ones here and there. Over all, though, he ran a pretty tight ship and kept the little ones from hurting themselves, each other, or getting too riled up. 

 

He made them all dinner—with the help of his little shadow, Cora—and then brought them back out to the living room to watch some Disney movie that had come out recently, or to continue to play with each other and ignore the movie all together because otherwise it meant sitting still, which wasn’t an option for some of them. 

 

It was ticking past most of their usual bed times, but Stiles knew he wouldn’t be able to wrangle any of them to sleep until the other wolves returned, so he let them be. One of the youngest wolves, a wriggling one-year-old named Jessy, was starting to tire out in his arms as he sat on the couch and watched the movie with a pile of entranced pups on either side of him. The little girl was resting against his chest after a particularly long session of flailing and grizzling, a few wet patches of drool forming on the shoulder and chest of his dark blue T-shirt. 

 

Stiles was looking down at the sleepy face squished against his shoulder when his ears picked up on something not quite right. Like hearing the displacement of air in a room, he wasn't fully sure what he'd heard, but it had him on full alert immediately. The first thought that came to mind was that one of the pups had wandered away without him noticing and he needed to go retrieve the little wanderer. However, a quick glance around the room told him otherwise. All of the pups were with him, so why did he hear a low thump nearly on the other side of the house? 

 

It could be nothing—probably was nothing—but Stiles would not be taking any chances with the safety of these children. He'd been through too much to trust normalcy, to trust what might go bump in the night. 

 

Stiles sat up and spoke in a low voice over the audio from the TV. He knew all the wolves in the room would hear him but didn't want to risk turning off the TV or speaking louder in case someone else might hear. 

 

"Everyone. Safe room. Now." All of the pups froze at his words, processing, before they burst into quiet motion. They'd all been taught at a very young age what to do when an adult told them to go to the safe room. It was a room deep in the house, reinforced with a steel door and walls. Not that that would keep out a determined wolf, but the imbedded lining of mountain ash in the walls certainly would. The circle was closed by the mountain ash inside the door, which meant the wolves can use it and close it themselves, but not open it. The only way to reopen it is either from the inside or putting the code into the keypad next to the door. It was only meant to be a last resort, but he wasn't taking any chances with the rest of the pack being away. If it was nothing, he would just put in the code and they would go back to watching their movie. 

 

The older pups automatically picked up or took the hands of the younger ones and began moving towards the safe room. Stiles silently walked them there and then handed the little girl in his arms over to Cora before kneeling down in front of the worried-looking girl. 

 

"I'll be back in a few minutes. Keep the others calm for me while I'm gone, and Cora?" Stiles gave the girl a small, reassuring smile as he saw a flicker of panic in her chocolate gaze at realizing he wouldn’t be going in the safe room with them. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. If not even Mark could take me down, then nothing will." He promised, though if the girl heard the flicker in his racing heart, she didn't say anything as she nodded jerkily and followed the others into the room. 

 

Stiles closed the door and listened to the sharp click of a deadbolt sliding home and felt the hum of magic from the mountain ash circle closing, just as he heard the groan of floor boards deep within the house and clumsy steps somewhere far off. Stiles silently crept through the nearly empty house, his senses untethering from his body and extending out in the darkened halls and rooms. 

 

He found it in the living room he'd left behind. Hunched over an abandoned sweatshirt on the floor, sniffing the air around it before moving over the couch and sniffing that as well—hunting. It was too-thin, gaunt, and a grey-pallor to its dirty flesh. The clothes it might have been wearing before were torn and stained with both dirt and the stiff, dark brown splotches of dried blood. The way it moved—twitchy, crouched, and distinctly instinctual—looked far from human. Stiles wasn't close enough to smell it, but he was sure if he could, it would smell like death. 

 

The creature whipped around at an unnatural speed and released a deafening sound that was between a growling roar and an inhuman screech. It had spotted him, and just before it leapt, Stiles caught sight of sickly yellow eyes glowing in the dark living room and confirmed his suspicions—Omega. One so far gone, so rabid it didn't even have the capacity to do a full shift, just a horrifying decrepit creature stuck in beta shift. 

 

Stiles jumped out of the way and narrowly missed a slash of dirty blood-caked claws as he vaulted over the sofa. This would not be like his fight with Mark. Mark had been out of control, but he was still a fighter and still predictable. The Omega already lunging for his throat again was anything but predictable. It moved on pure instinct and wouldn't have any presence of mind to protect itself. It wouldn't feel the pain he inflicted on it and it couldn't be reasoned with. He was out of his depth, but he would be damned if he let it near the kids. They were in the safe room, but now that he knew what he was dealing with, he knew they weren't safe on their own. 

 

An Omega with a taste for blood would be relentless until it found a way inside. And it could. The room was a last resort, but it wasn't impenetrable, especially not for a creature that would impale itself on a blade just to get a shot at someone's throat. No, he needed to protect them and take the Omega down, or at least run it off until the others returned. 

 

Stiles kept dodging the Omega's attacks, trying not to linger too close to the creature when countering with his own blows, since the beast was all claws and teeth and he really didn’t want to be run through before he can even put up a half-decent fight. He would tire eventually though, so Stiles knew he couldn't keep being so careful and retreating with every hit. He needed a way to at least scare it off, but how? 

 

Idealistically, wolfsbane, but this was the pack house. That stuff wasn't kept here, it was all safely stored with the emissary at the vet clinic. 

 

Then, maybe . . . fire? Even amidst his current struggle to keep out of the Omega's claws, just the thought of 'fire' and this house had his stomach rolling horribly. 'No, I'll find another way, but I can't keep going like this. I need a weapon.' Stiles thought, knowing that a weapon not laced with wolfsbane wouldn't easily kill the Omega, but it might hurt it enough to run it off. 

 

With that in mind, Stiles made a desperate move to put the half-formed plan into motion and sent a hard kick straight into the Omega's nose, immediately breaking it. Stiles was already turning and running before the wolf had even hit the ground, making a break for the kitchen even as the Omega behind him was up and giving chase not even a second later. This was his only shot, his back was turned to the wolf and he would only have a split second to grab a knife from where they were held in the butcher's block before it would be on him again. 

 

He slammed into walls and skidded around corners as he raced through the house, absently feeling blossoms of pain throughout his body that he knew would bruise horribly in a short amount of time. Finally, Stiles reached the kitchen, crashing into the counter and reaching for the large black handle of the butcher's knife. He ripped it out, causing the block to fall and the other knifes to skitter out but he paid it no mind as he whipped around just in time to be tackled to the ground. His head connected with the cold ceramic tiles with a sharp thud that had his vision whiting out for a moment—a moment he didn't have to spare. 

 

The Omega reared up and with another deafening roar, swiped down just as his sight began to clear. For a moment that seemed to drag on forever, Stiles felt three sharp points puncture the flesh over his ribs and then drag downward across his abdomen. The skin tore around the force of the claws that weren't sharp enough to slice through it like a blade, tugging sickeningly at his skin and the explosion of pain that ignited from the three crimson trenches clawed into his body like he had blazing fires just under his skin that were now roaring high and mightily from his wounds. 

 

Stiles released a noise that was a half-cry, half-furious bellow. His ears rang and the rest of his body went cold and oddly numb from the shock that had set in as he plunged the knife in his hand deep into the gut of the wolf on top of him. Again and again and again. Until the creature gave a pitiful whine and shot off of him. Stiles heard the back door in the kitchen that led out into the backyard splinter open with the force that the Omega had thrown itself against it to get out and retreat to lick its wounds. 

 

Stiles collapsed back on the ground, trembling hard as the shock settled more firmly inside his body. He knew what shock meant in a moment like this, that it wasn't just an emotion but a physical process. His brain couldn't cope with the pain and the events, so it was shutting down parts of his mind and body. He couldn't regulate his temperature anymore, which led to the shivering and bone-deep cold that was filling him like liquid nitrogen in his veins. His brain was throwing everything else away in order to save itself, so his organs would soon shut down—deemed less important—and his limbs would become useless in a matter of minutes. Which meant he had to move, because even through the shock, there was one resounding thought in his head. 

 

Must protect the brats.  

 

The Omega wasn't dead. The pack was out in the woods and he had no way of contacting them or signaling something was wrong. He couldn't call an ambulance because of two things: one, he couldn't leave the kids with the Omega still on the loose, and two, he didn't have all of his proper documentation yet and didn't even exist yet. He didn't know how bad the gashes on his stomach were, or if he'd even live to see his mate again, but he had a purpose right here and right now. He would keep those kids safe. If nothing else, he would do something right and protect the pack at least one more time. 

 

With a quaking, numb body, Stiles slowly pushed himself off of the kitchen floor. His head swam violently the moment he began moving and his hands slipped a few times in the sticky hot liquid that had begun to pool under and around him. With one arm crossed over his stomach to press against his abdomen and the other gripping the counter beside him in a death grip, Stiles eventually managed to pull himself up onto his feet and began to stumble towards the safe room while desperately holding onto the counter and the wall for support. 

 

His legs barely held him upright as he trudged on. The bloody butcher's knife was still clutched tightly in his hand of the arm pressed to his abdomen. Though, his grip was faltering the further he walked. After what felt like ages, Stiles reached the safe-room door and all but collapsed against it as he dropped onto his ass on the floor. The pups inside would be able to hear him out here, so he knew he didn't have to shout when he spoke. 

 

"Everyone stay insi-ide until the others get here. It's not- . . . safe to come out yet. I'll stay here to protect- . . . you." His voice wasn't as calm or steady as he'd like, cutting off here and there when his throat clenched up as a wave of pain broke through the fog of shock and ravaged his body. He heard the muffled sound of shuffling behind the door before a familiar, gruff little voice was filtered through the seam in the door. 

 

"Stiles? Are-are you okay?" Cora's voice was rough and subdued—either from lack of talking most of the time, or it was made that way from the current situation. Cora was a kid, but he'd never seen her cry and couldn't imagine her doing so now. 

 

"I'll be fine, Cora. I told you, didn't I? I never lose." He said with a breathless chuckle, even as he began to pant and grunt through the pain. He knew he didn't sound okay, but it was comforting to himself to reassure the girl he'd grown to care about as much as he would imagine he could for a little sister if he hadn't been an only child growing up. 

 

There was a small, frustrated growl from behind the door, followed by silence. He knew she was still there, though. Curled up close to the thin little seam in the door. Desperate to pull the door open to get to him, but not able to go against his orders to stay inside until the others came. 

 

Finally, she spoke. Just barely above a whisper, but he caught it none the less. 

 

"Don't you dare leave us for your old pack, Stiles." It was a threat, and a plead. 

 

Stiles closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the metal door. He knew what her words meant. Cora was smart and intuitive, she could piece together from what very little he'd shared with the quiet girl that his old pack was gone—dead—which meant she was asking for something entirely different with those words. She was telling him not to die. Nosy, wise, little brat. 

 

Stiles clenched his teeth hard as he opened his eyes again, blinking back moisture and bracing himself against the next wave of pain before he forced the words out. 

 

"I'm not . . . I can't." It was true, but not in the way Cora would like. He can't die and go to his old pack, because if he died, he wouldn't have anyone on the other side. 

 

"Good, because Derek would never let us hear the end of it if you got hurt." Her tone was sharp and harsh, but he could hear the real fear behind it. 

 

This time he couldn’t stop the tears from spilling over because, god . . . Derek. . . 

 

"Derek."  

 

                     

 

Derek halted in his tracks, his stomach dropping like a stone. A whisper of dread wound its way around his heart and constricted until it thudded almost painfully in his chest. Derek reared and thrashed to the side as panic flooded his body cold and heavy. He felt his Alpha approach, could smell her concern, but only one thing pierced through the fog in his head. Stiles. 

 

Derek threw his head back and released a painful, deafening howl that was laced with fear and agony that he wasn't sure was his own. Half a second later, he was tearing off through the trees, his mom right behind him, hoping against all hope that he was wrong and Stiles wasn't in danger. 

 

He reached the house and burst into his shift, sprinting toward the broken front door feeling like a tidal wave of devastation was waiting for him just beyond the quiet, shadowed door way. Derek slid passed the threshold and the scent of blood, fear, and mate, nearly took his feet out from under him. 

 

"Stiles."  

 

                      

 

Stiles wasn't sure exactly how long he had sat there, but things were starting to fade in and out and Cora sometimes had to bang on the door to jolt him back into awareness. He could hear in her voice that she was getting more and more distressed, a hushed murmur of the other kids somewhere deeper in the room every time she raised her voice. He wanted to comfort her and make everything alright, but he couldn't go in there, couldn't let them see him like this. 

 

Stiles looked down at himself, thick, viscous crimson had soaked through his shirt and stained his dark jeans. His hands and stomach were sticky with drying blood. The front of his shirt was torn and through the rips he could see the severity of his wounds. Knowing how slick his hands had been as he made his way through the house to the safe room, he knew that the halls must look like something out of a horror movie—bloody smears, handprints, and all. 

 

His heart thudded painfully in his chest, sluggish as his life spilled over his lap and made small pools on the ground. 

 

Cora was in the middle of rambling off something about him taking her to see the new Spiderman 2 movie in theaters in a daze, just trying to fill the silence and keep his attention, when she suddenly went quiet. Stiles felt a flicker of worry before he too heard an anguished howl from somewhere far off in the preserve. At first, he thought that it was the Omega and either it was coming back, or it had encountered the rest of the pack while they were out. Stiles wasn't sure what was worse as he gripped the knife in his hand tighter with what little strength remained in his limbs. He tensed and watched the entrances leading into the hallway, gearing himself up for possibly having to fend off the Omega again. 

 

There was a crash somewhere in the house, a stuttering of footsteps, and then thundering of feet aimed directly towards where Stiles was. He remained rigid on the floor, flexing his fingers and praying silently to himself that he would be enough to stop the Omega again. Except, that the figure that finally rounded the corner wasn't the Omega at all. 

 

"Derek!" Stiles sobbed and the knife clattered to the floor as his mate finally reached him. A heart-wrenching whimper tore itself from Derek's throat as he took in all the blood without really comprehending what was happening or what to do. 

 

"Oh god! Stiles!" Derek quickly pressed both hands over the still bleeding slashes across Stiles' stomach, trying to stem the bleeding. Stiles didn't even wince at the sudden pressure against his stomach, which was much stronger than his own attempts had been. Instead, Stiles reached up and weakly cupped the side of his mate's face, not caring that he was getting still-wet blood on the other's perfect cheek. 

 

"You're here." The words left his lips but he didn't remember even thinking it. He all but fell forward as he pressed his forehead into Derek's shoulder. Derek was saying something, and there were other voices, other hands pulling him away from the warmth of his mate and laying him down flat on the floor. He blinked up at the blurry figures around him before settling on Derek as his vision cleared again and the ringing in his ears subsided enough for him to figure out that there were people around him, flinging around words of panic and fear. 

 

He could also hear the muffled sounds of little fists against the steel door near his head and pained sobs begging for him not to go. Derek's face was red and tear-streaked, he looked like he was on the verge of breaking and Stiles knew it was because of him. Stiles lifted his hands only an inch before two large, warm, familiar hands wrapped around it and pulled it up to Derek's face so he could press them to his lips while hot tears hit his arm and trailed down to his elbow. Somehow, he could feel that more than he could feel the gashes on his stomach being pressed down on with towels and firm hands. 

 

"I'm sorry." Stiles uttered. He had never wanted to cause Derek pain, he had never wanted to make him sad, he had wanted to protect Derek from the cruelness of the world. Yet, it seemed to be so much of Derek protecting him these days. Derek was his love, his life, his heart. He was too light, too amazing, too pure to be tainted by pain and loss like Stiles had been. 

 

As Derek knelt there, clutching his hand and begging Stiles and anyone who would listen to not let him die please, for the first time, Stiles also felt a desperation deep within for him to survive and make it through. Because putting his love through even a modicum of the pain he'd had to face in his lifetime wasn't an option any more. 

 

Fuck dying in a blaze of glory, fuck dying for a good cause, fuck dying! He'll be damned if he leaves Derek alone and without his mate. And also, it was for himself, because he was so fucking tired of losing and sacrificing. He wasn't giving up warm afternoons in the garden while Derek talked his ear off. He wasn't giving up every sweet little parting kiss when Derek so much as left the room. He wasn't giving up cheering himself hoarse courtside as his sweaty mate brought the game home and beamed at him over the heads of all the people who'd ran onto the court to congratulate him. He wasn't giving up night and mornings and afternoons where they didn't leave their bed and made love until they were both aching, sore, and couldn't be happier. He wasn't giving up Derek for anything. 

 

Fueled by a burning determination that had erupted in his chest, Stiles turned to his other side, where the Alpha was leaning over him and trying to stop the bleeding, eyes clouded with panic and clearly not thinking straight in the pandemonium. 

 

"The bite." Was all he said, pulling everyone's attention to him. He watched the comprehension bloom on her face and there was a spark of hope in her eyes once again. 

 

He turned his head away just as he saw her eyes flicker scarlet and looked back up into Derek's watery eyes. 

 

"Don't worry Derek. . ."He sighed out, offering a slight smile to his as he felt hot breath against his side and the graze of sharp teeth. "If there's one thing . . . I've learned . . . it's that it's pretty damn hard to kill me. . ." His smile turned cheeky and he knew it was reminiscent to his old cocky smiles and a bubble of laughter burbled out of his mate that was only partially a sob. And then the teeth at his side clamped down in a bite that was far more forceful than the set of teeth that had pressed the claiming ring of scars at the base of his neck that mirrored his mate's. 

 

There was a flood of hot, electric buzzing throughout his whole body. He gasped. His back bowed off of the ground as every muscle seemed to tense. Liquid gold flooded his vision and deep within, a triumphant howl resonated through his chest. The man who wore the night like a cloak had finally found his claws. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Panels of glorious afternoon light painted themselves across the smooth dark surface of the wooden table. The light growing warmer and more brilliantly bright for a few moments before dimming slightly through the filter of thin clouds in the richly stained sky outside. Heavy, sweet-smelling vapors rose from the steaming mug of tea on the table, the inner lip of the cup ringed by a faint brown stain from the countless previous cups of tea sipped from Stiles' favorite mug. 

 

He wrapped his long fingers around the warm handle and brought the mug up to his face, sparing a moment to breathe in a lung-full of honey and tea-sweet steam before taking the first sip. Setting the cup down, Stiles wrapped his fingers around the soft cuffs of his sweater sleeves and pulled his legs up into the plush armchair he was sat in to curl up more comfortably as he gazed out the window at the approaching sunset. 

 

He has waited many years to see this sunset in particular. . .  

 

Stiles smiled, took another sip of his tea, and reflected on all the wonderful years that had brought him here. 

 

After the Omega attack, Stiles had taken to the bite almost ridiculously fast. With his rocky past, even if they didn't know the details, everyone had expected him to struggle worse than most pups with control over his shift and abilities. However, it seemed that Stiles didn't lose control for even a moment. Not even that he held such tight reigns over his wolf, it was more like he never had a reason to try to contain it. His wolf was calm, quiet, and just as intuitive as him. 

 

Derek had been almost irrationally proud of his mate—that is, after he'd finally settled down and overcame almost losing Stiles that night. Derek had soon rediscovered his excitement and eagerly taught Stiles how to beta and full shift. The event had sort of been sobered fairly quickly when Stiles beta-shifted for the first time and discovered his eyes were a dreaded ice-blue instead of gold and all he could think about was the times when another had occupied his body and forced his hand. Derek had been quick to reassure Stiles that it was alright, Derek understood what had happened, it wasn't his fault, and Stiles was still the most beautiful creature he'd ever laid eyes on—'cheesy brat'and kissed him until the clouds of doubt and self-loathing disappeared. 

 

When Stiles full shifted for the first time and turned into a lean, slender wolf with very thick and soft fur the color of cream with honey-colored eyes, Derek had spent the whole rest of the day in a daze of droopy eyes, wide grins, and practically with hearts in his eyes. Laura had cut in to say he looked like a marshmallow with his thick creamy coat. Derek couldn't be down trodden, though. That night, Stiles had been praised and kissed from his ankles to the crown of his head. Not much sleeping had taken place that evening. It was worth it though. 

 

After that, Talia was able to acquire the last of his paperwork and Stiles started taking online classes. He also put to use his knowledge of the future to make a few hasty investments that had a quick and rather fruitful turnout. Well . . . even though it wasn't what he'd gone to the past for and wasn't exactly morally sound, Stiles had never claimed to be a saint. Besides, he'd done a lot of thinking about his future, and there were things he had planned and needed the funds to do some of it. 

 

One thing, however, couldn't wait for him to make substantial money of his own. He'd seen someone he used to know at the supermarket one day and realized his timing had been skewed and there was someone who needed his help now. So, Stiles approached Talia, sat her down, and had a long talk about what he wanted to do. The Alpha had been on board immediately and provided him with more money than he could ever need and used her own contacts and resources to put everything into motion. 

 

Not even a week later, he had walked up to the Lahey house, knocked on the door and asked to talk with the disheveled man who had answered. Firstly, Stiles handed over the forms to relinquish custody of one Isaac Lahey and asked the man to sign over custody to Talia Hale so that someone fit to provide for his son could do so. The man had nearly spit in his face and crudely told Stiles that the "little shit" just needed a bit of discipline and was useful when he behaved so he wasn't giving him up. That was the first time since the bite that Stiles struggled to control his anger. 

 

Stiles gave up on pleasantries then and handed the disgusting man a check for an abhorrent amount of money and suggested the man sign the papers and take the money before he got the authorities involved and had him thrown in jail. Kindly reminding him that Talia Hale was a powerful woman indeed and the court room was the last place one wanted to encounter the fearsome CEO. 

 

Not even ten minutes later, Stiles had gone up to the small room belonging to the broken and abused nine-year-old and gently coaxed the tiny little thing out of the corner of his closet. It had taken a while, but Stiles was a well of patience and had been able to soften himself enough in front of the frightened child to convince Isaac he wasn't a threat so he could take the child into his arms. Holding him up with one hand, small arms secured around his neck, Stiles packed a bag for Isaac with the other hand and left with the boy that very day. It usually didn't work like that, but he and Talia were cutting through mounds of red tape to bring the boy home to the pack as soon as possible. 

 

That night, Isaac and Stiles stayed up in his room—occasionally visited by the bright-eyed Derek—the whole day and night. Mostly they had been silent, but Isaac didn't stray from his side. 

 

Isaac was traumatized and almost as closed-off as Stiles had been when he'd first arrived. It took him a long time to warm up to anyone, though, no one was really surprised when the first person he warmed up to after Stiles was Derek. Still, the boy seemed to prefer Stiles to anyone else. 

 

Isaac had been told all about their world fairly soon into him coming to live with them. Instead of being terrified, the kid had been reassured that 'his Stiles' was stronger than anyone else out there and would always be able to protect him. 

 

Talia had taken on temporary guardianship of Isaac, but Stiles acted as his main caretaker. With every night spent curled up in the same bed, with every warm bubble bath he gave the little whip, with all the times Isaac sought him out immediately after lessons with the other pups to take his hand and not let go for hours, it seemed like the space in Stiles' heart grew impossibly bigger to fit the little boy inside. 

 

Two days after Stiles had turned eighteen and legally became an adult, Talia had given him the best gift he could have ever asked for and handed him a thick stack of papers. Adoption papers. It was the first time he'd cried in front of someone who wasn't Derek in more than a year. The day Isaac had officially and legally become his son, Stiles finally understood just how bottomless and endless his capacity to love was. Nobody even blinked an eye at his age and Isaac had nearly hugged the life out him when he'd been told. 

 

He still had nightmares and night terrors some nights, but they were growing fewer and further in between the long nights of restful and pleasant dreams. Isaac had nightmares too and had told Stiles one day that they were the best at comforting each other when they happened because they both understood it so well. 

 

Derek had promptly taken up the mantel of co-parent with Stiles—even though he couldn't take up joint-custody of Isaac until he came of age as well. Derek had almost immediately started calling Isaac his son—no matter how strange it seemed for someone so young to be saying such things—oddly, it fit. 

 

There wasn't a day that went by that Stiles didn't wish his old pack could see him then, with his wonderful mate and son. However, it became less of a horrible aching longing and more of just wistful thinking when he was alone. 

 

As his second spring in this time came rolling on in on green storm clouds and warm rain and flourishing flowers, Stiles found himself confronting another part of his past and bringing about a welcome—though unexpected—outcome. That previous fall, Claudia Stilinski had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Her and her husband had spent months looking for treatments to start, but by spring, their last hopes were dashed by one blunt neurologist explaining to them in no unclear terms that it was too advanced, she wouldn't have more than a few years left, and that the debilitating symptoms would set in very soon. 

 

Even if she technically wasn't his mom anymore, even if just the thought of seeing her was painful, even if it effected the timeline wildly, Stiles just couldn't let her go so easily. His first thought was to get Talia to give her the bite. He knew the Alpha would gladly do anything for her son's mate—who she sometimes loved more than her own son—and his mom was a good enough person that the Alpha wouldn't have any problems with bringing the woman into her pack. 

 

However, Stiles knew he just wouldn't be able to handle having to see his mother almost every single day, not when she wasn't his mom anymore. He wanted to save her, but he couldn't withstand being around her or his dad. He didn't want to cut off access to them completely, and maybe one day he would be able to be around them and not constantly think about them being his parents and all that he had lost between them, but that day was very, very far off. 

 

It took a while, but he finally came to a decision. Working with Talia again, Stiles was able to find a happy medium and approached a pack just half an hour away—they were small, not very close-knit, but were on very good terms with the Hale Pack—and pointed them in the direction of his mother. She was a perfect candidate for the bite. Morally sound, resilient, kind, and very slow to anger. She was also terminally ill and had a small, undeveloped spark inside that was passed down in her family. 

 

After initially meeting the pack, they took over from there and approached the Stilinski's on their own. It took some time for them to mull it over, but eventually they agreed and just like her not-son, Claudia took immediately to the bite. The pack was even lax enough that the pair didn't have to move out of Beacon Hills to be closer to them. 

 

If Talia found it strange that Stiles would do so much for people he didn't appear to have any connection to, she never said anything—except maybe one offhanded comment about how secretly soft-hearted he was as they drove back home after the meeting with the other pack. 

 

A year later, Stiles finished up his education, received his diploma right around the same time that Derek did. They were both accepted into a fairly prestigious college in California. They moved their little family unit to just outside campus—Isaac started going to public school for the first time since they'd taken him in and had adjusted surprisingly well. The independence and anonymity of college education had suited Stiles quite well and he truly began to flourish in his studies. 

 

They always went home every chance they got—every weekend and holiday break—since the college was only about an hour and a half away from Beacon Hills. They of course moved back in for summer break. 

 

Isaac started middle school and not long after, Stiles finished his undergrad early and started graduate school. Derek boasted and teased him endlessly about him secretly being some sort of genius or prodigy or something. All the while, Stiles' investments grew and he was happy to be able to support himself and his family all on his own, while also having plenty left over to anonymously transfer funds into Melissa McCall's bank account each month. Nothing astronomical, but he remembered how much the woman had struggled after leaving her alcoholic husband and if nothing else, Stiles wanted her to be able to be there for Scott now that he no longer could. He didn't want her to skip meals and take on too many shifts with no sleep just so she had enough to pay for Scott's inhaler medicine. 

 

It wasn't very clever or subtle, but Stiles felt like he needed to do it. 

 

Once, Derek had asked him out of curiosity, why he did it—all of it. 

 

"I mean, did they save you in some past life or something?" He joked, watching with fondness exuding from every pore as his incredibly kind-hearted mate came back home from the bank after making yet another transfer. Stiles had told him before that he'd discovered the woman's situation a while back and felt like, since he more than had the means to do it, it was only right to help her. He also remembered Stiles helping that poor couple after the woman had gotten sick. It seemed like Stiles was a magnet for strays and unfortunate souls—and honestly, it sort of just made Derek love him more to see how much his otherwise very impassive and sometimes cold-eyed mate could care. 

 

Huffing a little chuckle, Stiles smiled up at Derek before thinking about his question for a moment. It was kind of true, wasn't it? 

 

"Maybe." He said, playing along. "Maybe I owe them some sort of debt from a past life." His smile turned sly and mischievous. "Or maybe your mother's suspicions about me are just true and I really am full of marshmallow filling on the inside!" He teased, pulling delighted fit of laughter from his mate. 

 

By the time Derek finished his Masters in social work, Stiles had finished graduate school and had started up his own tech company. And perhaps Stiles had a head start by knowing very well exactly what kind of leaps and advancements would take place over the next half-decade, but he never promised to play fair. It was still in its beginning stages but had garnered quite a bit of support quite quickly. 

 

They then moved back to Beacon Hills then. Though, they didn't move back into the main house, deciding to instead continue living on their own in a smaller but still very comfortable home in the preserve on Hale private property that had made an appearance while they were still in college and had conveniently remained empty until they returned home and the Alpha just so happened to know of the perfect place for them—knowing they would want a home for themselves to grow their family and settle fully into their lives. 

 

Isaac started high school along with Cora and though those two seemed to only really be able to stand each other—bonding over their mutual affection for a certain honey-eyed wolf—it only took a few months before Isaac came home with a few friends Stiles recognized immediately and felt his chest fill with something indescribable as Isaac proudly introduced his new friends to his dad. Scott had innocently asked how his dad could look so young while the pretty brunette with familiarly endearing dimples blushed scarlet and the tactful and tenacious redhead jabbed an elbow into the boy's ribs. 

 

Stiles had teasingly quipped that he fed off the youth of others. Scott had turned pale for a moment before the other's laughed and he realized Stiles was joking—though, he supposed it wasn't very easy to tell with how serious and calmly Stiles had said it. When Derek came home later from the store, he was relieved to have his last little bit of worry slipping away when Derek was introduced as Isaac's other dad and no one blinked an eye. He knew none of them were prejudiced from his own time with them, but teenagers could be stupid. It happened. 

 

Time went on, Stiles fell more in love with his mate and adored his son more each day that passed. The other shoe never dropped and it took a while to realize it was already secured on his foot. He healed slowly and truly enjoyed his life and his growing family. 

 

Stiles watched the last strip of bright light slip off of the table before him like silk as the sun finally dropped past the horizon. Over nine years ago, he'd left this morning in order to go back in time to save others, and ultimately, himself. Stiles took another sip of his cooling tea. It had taken nearly a decade to get to this sunset and they had been some of the best years of his life. He's happy. His life is full, as is his heart. 

 

He didn't know what tomorrow would bring, but unlike the last time he'd lived this very day, he had faith that tomorrow would be yet another gift. 

 

Stiles set his empty mug down on the table, the lingering sweetness on his tongue a kiss of honey and tea. He slid languidly from his seat, the sound of his family calling him away from his memories. 

 

In the echoing heat of sunset, he already couldn't wait for daybreak once more.